When Artistic Director John Langs sat down to plan his inaugural season at ACT Theatre, politics weighed heavily on his mind.
“We found ourselves in the very crosshairs of the national conversation,” John says. “From Assassins to Daisy to The Royale to Dangerous Liaisons—the art that we chose to make in 2016 fearlessly and sometimes uncomfortably leaned in to the issues of the world at large. We certainly ignited strong feelings and deeper conversations.”
He looks forward to taking a different approach in 2017—one framed by hope.
“Whatever your views are, it is my assertion that we could all use a bit of hopefulness as we push past 2016,” he says. “I looked for stories of inspiration and redemption—about deepening community through joy and togetherness, both on Mainstage and in ACTLab.”
The 2017 Season opens with Nina Raine’s Tribes, a story of acceptance as an eccentric family come to terms with the independence of their favorite son. The Legend of Georgia McBride explores how an Elvis impersonator finds his true calling as a drag queen. King of the Yees is an epic joy ride into the heart of Chinatown, as a father and daughter seek to find one another. Alex & Aris is a world premiere about Aristotle shaping the moral compass of the man who would become Alexander the Great. The season ends with one of the seminal plays in the American theatrical canon, and a timely parable, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.
John finds that the plays featured in the 2017 Season reflect his ongoing dialogue with the community, and the desire to connect more deeply to the art. He has enjoyed meeting patrons and city dwellers in ACT’s many lobbies, at post-play discussions, and on the streets surrounding ACT’s downtown home. The annual holiday classic A Christmas Carol, which reaches nearly 20,000 people during the festive season, continues to meet another need in the community: to press pause on the world outside and find a heartwarming escape within.
“It’s not lost on me the remarkable demand audiences have for this year’s A Christmas Carol,” he says. “It points toward the need for a communion around generosity and friendship.”
In the same spirit, ACT is celebrating the 10th Anniversary of ACTLab, a program that continues to serve as an incubator and catalyst for new works with emerging and seasoned artists. This year, the Lab will provide an artistic home for local groups such as The Seagull Project, Pratidhwani, eSe Teatro, and Theatre22.
“After 10 years, it’s safe to say that ACTLab has had an enormous impact on the artistic and cultural life of the city,” he says.
He hopes ACTLab will continue to help artists transform their work and reach new audiences in one of five stellar ACT venues. At the same time, 2017 poses the opportunity to present even more daring work.
“We are just getting started,” he says.
For more details on ACT’s 2017 Season and ACTLab’s 10th Anniversary, visit acttheatre.org.