American Players Theater announces 2022 season, welcoming full audience

Nine shows include five reschedules from the canceled 2020 docket; official summer 2022 schedule coming early January
Apt Photo By Liz Lauren
Photo by Liz Lauren

It feels like American Players Theatre is doing the time warp again.

No, that doesn’t mean that artistic director Brenda DeVita has suddenly added “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” to her company’s repertory — although the prospect certainly sounds intriguing. But five of the nine shows the company announced this morning as part of its upcoming 2022 season are plays that were scheduled before COVID-19 canceled the 2020 season.

In the outdoor Hill Theater, the 2022 docket will include two productions originally slated for 2020: Shakespeare’s  “Love’s Labour’s Lost” and Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility.”  Three of the four shows in the indoor Touchstone Theater will consist of productions initially lost to the pandemic: Tarell Alvin McCrainey’s “The Brothers Size,” directed by APT core company member Gavin Lawrence, “Stones in His Pockets,” a comedy in which Nate Burger and Marcus Truschinski play multiple roles and “The River Bride,” playwright Marisela Treviño Orta’s fable, in which a woman (Melisa Pereyra) falls for a man fished out of (you guessed it) a river.

The outdoor docket also includes the summer opener, a production of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s period comedy “The Rivals,” a production of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” starring Nate Burger as the dithering Dane, and a production of University of Wisconsin–Madison alum Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun,” directed by newcomer Tasia A. Jones, a director DeVita’s been recruiting for more than two years.  The fourth show in the Touchstone will be “The Moors,” a critically acclaimed absurdist work featuring four of the company’s heaviest hitters (Tracy Michelle Arnold, Kelsey Brennan, Colleen Madden and Jim DeVita).

The company plans to return to full audience shows in both venues, assuming the pandemic doesn’t worsen.

“This season feels like it’s so representative of everything, meaning we can’t dismiss what’s happened,” says Brenda DeVita. “So we have plays from the past that we were excited to do that are going to be in 2022. But we also want to make sure we’re moving forward. And we want to make sure that we come back to what is true about APT, which is this festival, repertory community that we have desperately missed for the last two seasons.”

Most of the casts of the shows that were lost in 2020 will return as originally intended. In a few cases, the actors in question lost one role and gained another, like Burger, who began his APT tenure as an apprentice in the early 2010s, getting to play the role of Hamlet (the show’s being directed by Jim DeVita, who, as longtime APT audiences know, played that role on the Hill Stage earlier in his career, and played Claudius in a later APT production).

“Most people upgraded,” says DeVita. “Let’s just say I don’t I don’t think we’ve had anybody we’ve had to say, ‘Oh, sorry, this is going to be less than what you expected.’ We’ve been fortunate to bring back actors for the central roles for “The River Bride” and “The Brothers Size” and those were the kind of hearty muscular parts that those people were excited to play.”

Triney Sandoval, who’ll star in “The River Bride,” also gets to play Claudius in “Hamlet” and Don Armado in “Love’s Labour’s Lost.”

Through the ups and downs of the last two seasons — one canceled entirely, the other split between limited in-person audiences and streaming productions online — Brenda DeVita has tried to push forward with her company’s goals of addressing diversity and expanding its reach.

“At the end of 2019, we had started to manifest some real community and some real relationships and some real change in our dramaturgy that was right in line with our mission, and then we were interrupted,” says Brenda DeVita. “The community of actors and artists that come together to make the whole season, they’re not here to do one play. They’re here to be a part of this community and move forward the idea of what it is to be part of a universal truth. That means that they have to believe that it’s for everyone, and so our job is to make sure it is for everyone, and that the people that are telling those stories are from everywhere and every part, every part of the culture and as much as we can.”

APT will announce the official summer 2022 schedule in early January, with ticket sales to be announced later. The company is currently continuing its modernist take on Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” in the Touchstone.

Aaron R. Conklin covers local theater and dining and drink as a regular contributor to Madison Magazine.

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