Current VPA News

Joanna Penalva

Three comedies, a world premiere, a charming holiday musical and a critically acclaimed Tony Award winner for Best Play make up the 2018/2019 Syracuse Stage season. 

“It is a season of power, passion and purpose,” said artistic director Robert Hupp, who noted the balance in the season between shows that are welcoming to a broad audience and shows that are not as well-known but are equally engaging.

Hupp pointed to the success of shows in the current season that achieved the same kind of balance he seeks to provide next season. The current season’s opener “The Three Musketeers” and the holiday show “The Wizard of Oz” had broad appeal and drew large audiences. “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” and the musical “Next to Normal” enjoyed great success while engaging audiences in a deeper way.

“We want everyone to come to Syracuse Stage,” Hupp said. “That means creating theatre that speaks to people in a variety of ways.”

The 2018/2019 season opens with what has been called “the funniest farce ever written,” Michael Frayn’s “Noises Off.” Premiered in 1982, Frayn’s famous comedy follows the door-slamming, prat-falling, comedic mishaps of a company of actors attempting to perform a comedy. As the action shifts from on stage to back stage, the mayhem multiplies and the laughter grows exponentially. Wildly popular with theaters large and small, professional and amateur, “Noises Off” has never been produced at Syracuse Stage.

“You may have seen ‘Noises Off,’ said Hupp, who is slated to direct, “but you haven’t seen Syracuse Stage’s ‘Noises Off.’”

October brings the world premiere of “Possessing Harriet,” a drama that has its inspiration in a chapter of Central New York history. Originally commissioned by the Onondaga Historical Association and written by award-winning playwright and Syracuse Stage associate artistic director Kyle Bass, “Possessing Harriet” imagines a conversation between an enslaved woman, Harriet Powell, and a young Elizabeth Cady, the fierce advocate for women’s rights.  The conversation takes place in an attic room in the Peterboro, New York, home of abolitionist Gerrit Smith as Harriet, having slipped away from a Syracuse  hotel and the family who owns her, awaits her departure north on the Underground Railroad. This absorbing drama unfolds in real time, as danger nears and Harriet must make a life-altering decision.

“I am humbled and honored that Bob has chosen this play to be produced at Syracuse Stage,” said Bass who has previously been represented at the theater with “Cry for Peace: Voices from the Congo,” co-written with Ping Chong, and “Separated,” based on the experiences of Syracuse University students in and out of military service.

The holiday season rings in cheer with “Elf the Musical,” a co-production with the Syracuse University Department of Drama. Based on the New Line Cinema film starring Will Ferrell, “Elf the Musical” follows an oversized elf named Buddy on his search for his real family in New York City. Filled with humor and terrific songs, this heartwarming musical will be directed by Donna Drake, who staged the acclaimed version of “The Wizard of Oz” during the 17/18 season.

The New Year arrives with more comedy as Karen Zacarías’ new satire “Native Gardens” takes the stage. A winner of the National Latino Playwriting Award, Zacarías tackles such hot-button topics as privilege, prejudice and even border disputes and walls with a good natured and light-hearted touch.  Set in adjoining backyards in the Georgetown section of Washington, DC, “Native Gardens” pits an older established white couple against a new-to-the-neighborhood young Latino couple in an escalating  fracas over two feet of property. Cordial welcome soon gives way to rivalry in a comedy/drama that has been called a play “we need right now.”

Jane Austen makes her Syracuse Stage debut in the guise of Kate Hamill’s adaptation of the great novel “Pride and Prejudice.” Hamill is the current queen of off-Broadway, said Hupp, where she has received critical and popular acclaim for her adaptations of “Sense and Sensibility” and “Vanity Fair.”  Hamill’s “Pride and Prejudice” had a successful world premiere in the summer of 2017 at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival before transferring to New York for an acclaimed run at the Cherry Lane Theatre. The Wall Street Journal, among others, praised the production noting that the “language is traditional but the approach is thoroughly modern.”

“I know everyone thinks of Jane Austen as these musty old books they didn’t want to read in high school,” Hupp explained. “But this is Austen for the 21st century. It’s fast and funny and it is altogether true to the heart of the novel. Kate Hamill’s brilliance is that she can capture everything that’s great about the novel in a way that is very theatrical and very alive.”

Due to licensing restrictions, the title of the season closer can not be announced until March 26. What can be revealed is that the show is a contemporary comedy/drama that recently won the Tony Award for Best Play. It also won the Drama Critics Circle, the Outer Circle Critics, the Drama League, and the Drama Desk Awards for Best Play. It was also named Best Play of the Year by the following media outlets: Newsday, The New York Times, New York Magazine, The Record, The Hollywood Reporter, The Chicago Tribune, Deadline, and npr.

Hupp noted that, as with this season’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” the final play will only be produced at select regional theaters next season, including at Syracuse Stage.

The Cold Read Festival of New Plays also returns in early March to bring audiences into the process of creating new work. Associate artistic director Kyle Bass again curates the four-day festival, which is scheduled for March 7 – 10. 

Hupp noted the momentum Syracuse Stage has built with a string of critical and popular successes beginning with “The Three Musketeers” and carrying through the recently closed “Next to Normal.”  He said the new season should continue to engage and entertain audiences with its promise of “passion, power and purpose.”

The 2018/2019 season opens September 12, 2018 and runs through May 12, 2019. Subscriptions and Flex Packs are on sale now.


Noises Off
By Michael Frayn
Directed by Robert Hupp
Sept. 12 – 30, 2018

Possessing Harriet
By Kyle Bass
Oct. 17 – Nov. 4, 2018

Elf the Musical
Book by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin
Music by Matthew Sklar 
Lyrics by Chad Beguelin
Directed by Donna Drake
Choreography by Brian Marcum
Musical Direction by Brian Cimmet
Based on the New Line Cinema film by David Berenbaum
Co-produced with the Syracuse University Department of Drama
Nov. 23, 2018 – Jan. 6, 2019

Native Gardens
By Karen Zacarías
Feb. 13 – March 3, 2019

Cold Read: A Winter Festival of Hot New Plays
March 7 – 10, 2019

Pride and Prejudice
Based on the book by Jane Austen
By Kate Hamill
Directed by Jason O’Connell
March 13 – April 7, 2019      

A Tony Award-Winner for Best Play
April 24 – May 12, 2019