Alley Theatre's New Season Includes Red, The Seagull, and The Toxic Avenger

The Alley Theatre's 2011-12 season will include classics, both old and newer - The Seagull by Anton Chekhov, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and The Santaland Diaries by David Sedaris - a musical called The Toxic Avenger and two world premieres.

The announcement made today by Artistic Director Gregory Boyd also includes last year's Best Play Tony Award Winner, Red by John Logan, about the abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko.

The premieres are of Elizabeth Egloff's play Ether Dome and Theresa Rebeck's black comedy What We're Up Against. The work of the late Horton Foote will be also be making an appearance with Dividing the Estate.

"Our new season focuses both on contemporary playwrights - and the return of a master - and a bushel of brilliant opportunities for actors" said Boyd. " Each of the plays, new and 'classic' provide a wealth of outstanding opportunities for the resident artists, and for a wonderful group of returning actors, as well as some extraordinary performers making their Alley debuts."

Also included are Conor McPherson's comedy drama The Seafarer; and a new production of Michael Frayn's farce Noises Off.

The details follow, but please note that titles and dates can change. From the Alley's press release:


World Premiere Ether DomeBy Elizabeth Egloff Directed by Michael Wilson September 9 - October 9, 2011 Recommended for mature audiences.

Ether Dome is about love, medicine, and the relationship between two of the greatest medical innovators in Western history, Horace Wells and his student, William Morton, who in 1847 discovered Ether as anesthesia, thereby opening the door to the enormous medical achievements of the 20th and 21st centuries, and challenging our understanding of God, pain, and what it means to be truly human.

Elizabeth Egloff's plays The Swan, The Devils, Phaedra, and Wolf-Man have been given productions at major theatres across the United States and abroad and garnered her a wide array of prestigious awards and grants including The Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Foundation Writer's Award, The Weissberger Prize and The Kesselring Prize. Among her numerous screen credits is the award-winning series The Reagans, Emmy nominated for Best Screenplay.

Michael Wilson returns to the Alley to direct Ether Dome. His Alley productions have included A Christmas Carol, Angels in America, A Streetcar Named Desire, and many more. He has been for 13 seasons the Artistic Director of Hartford Stage in Connecticut, and his New York productions include Dividing the Estate, The Orphans' Home Cycle, The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore, Enchanted April and Necessary Targets.

Dividing the EstateBy Horton Foote Directed by Michael Wilson October 7 - October 30, 2011 Recommended for mature audiences.

Horton Foote, the award-winning writer of The Trip to Bountiful and The Day Emily Married, returns to the town of Harrison, Texas, with this sharp satire about a Southern dynasty in crisis. At odds over the fate of their dwindling inheritance, several generations of the well-to-do Gordon family must confront their disreputable past as they grapple with an uncertain future. Will they face possible ruin and indignity together or take their chances and go their separate ways? "The theatrical equivalent of a page-turner" - Bloomberg The work of the late Texas playwright Horton Foote comes back to the Alley where his play The Carpetbagger's Children premiered (Alley 2001). His many plays include The Day Emily Married, The Roads to Home, The Young Man From Atlanta (Alley 1996), The Trip to Bountiful (Alley 2003), Lily Dale, The Widow Claire, Laura Dennis and The Traveling Lady (Alley 1986). His honors include the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for The Young Man From Atlanta and two Academy Awards for his screenplays for To Kill A Mockingbird and Tender Mercies.

Actress Hallie Foote is perhaps the most highly regarded interpreter of her father's work. She began her stage career in 1986 in the title role of her father's play The Widow Claire, opposite . Father and daughter later collaborated on The Orphans' Home Cycle, Talking Pictures, Night Seasons, Laura Dennis, When They Speak of Rita, The Last of the Thorntons, and , for which she won the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Featured Actress, and was nominated for the for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play. She created the role of 'Sissie' in the Alley premiere of The Carpetbagger's Children and returns to the Alley to recreate her Tony-nominated performance as 'Mary Jo' in Dividing the Estate.

Ms. Foote said "I'm very excited to be doing Dividing the Estate at the Alley. Having a play produced there was always kind of like going home for my father. Houston is close to Wharton where my father grew up, and was always a very familiar and comforting part of the world to him." Director Michael Wilson staged the premiere of Horton Foote's The Carpetbagger's Children at the Alley, and recently the nine play Horton Foote marathon The Orphans' Home Cycle at the Signature Theatre in New York. He directed the Broadway/Lincoln Center Theatre production of Dividing the Estate, where its many accolades included a Tony nomination for Best Play, the 2008 Outer Critics Circle Award, and Horton Foote's 2008 Obie Award for Playwriting. He returns to the Alley this season to direct Dividing the Estate and the premiere of Ether Dome.

The Toxic AvengerBook & Lyrics by Joe DiPietro Music & Lyrics by David Bryan Directed by John Rando

January 13 - February 12, 2012 Not recommended for young children. The Toxic Avenger is a charming love story and laugh-out-loud musical that has it all -- an unlikely hero, his beautiful girlfriend, a corrupt New Jersey mayor, an onstage rock band, and two guys who play... well, everyone else ... bullies, mobsters, old ladies, and stiletto-wearing back-up singers. The Toxic Avenger features music from Bon Jovi's David Bryan and book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro, the Tony Award winning team of Memphis. "Hysterically Funny!" - New York Post "Four Stars! A Rock n Roll romp" - Time Out John Rando (Tony Winner for Urinetown) returns to the Alley to reinvent his hilarious 2009 Off Broadway staging of The Toxic Avenger following his smashing Alley productions of The Man Who Came to Dinner, Mrs. Mannerly and Be My Baby.

The SeagullBy Anton Chekhov Directed by Gregory Boyd February 3 - March 4, 2012 Mature themes; General audiences. Chekhov created, in his 1895 play that describes the romantic entanglements of a group of actors, writers and artists gathered on a Russian estate, one of the enduring masterpieces of the world theatre, and a modern classic that grows richer with time. The extraordinary ensemble cast includes James Black as the novelist Trigorin and Josie de Guzman as the actress Arkadina.

Tony Award Winner - Best Play RedBy John Logan Directed by Jackson Gay March 2 - March 25, 2012 Explicit language, adult situations. Master abstract expressionist Mark Rothko has just landed the biggest commission in the history of modern art, a series of murals for New York's famed Four Seasons Restaurant. In the two fascinating years that follow, Rothko works feverishly with his young assistant, Ken, in his studio on the Bowery. But when Ken gains the confidence to challenge him, Rothko faces the agonizing possibility that his crowning achievement could also become his undoing. Red is a searing portrait of an artist's ambition and vulnerability as he tries to create a definitive work for an extraordinary setting. "Smart, Exciting and Scintillating." - The New Yorker Playwright John Logan is the Academy Award nominated screenwriter of Gladiator, The Aviator and Sweeney Todd.

Jackson Gay returns to the Alley, following her triumphant production of August: Osage County last season, to direct this raw, provocative and powerful new play.

The SeafarerBy Conor McPherson Directed by Gregory Boyd April 6 - April 29, 2012 Explicit language, adult situations.

It's Christmas Eve and Sharky has returned to Dublin to look after his irascible, ageing brother who's recently gone blind. Old drinking buddies Ivan and Nicky are holed up at the house too, hoping to play some cards. But with the arrival of a stranger from the distant past, the stakes are raised ever higher. In fact, Sharky may be playing for his very soul . . . "Shines in a world gone adrift" - Chicago Tribune

Conor McPherson (The Weir, Shining City) follows last summer's Alley debut (St Nicholas) with this powerful, funny, unsettling tale. What We're Up AgainstA New Play by Theresa Rebeck Directed by Scott Schwartz May 4 - June 3, 2012 Explicit language, recommended for mature audiences.

"They told me it wasn't like this anymore. Why is it still like this?" bemoans Eliza, a female architect, as she slams into the firm's glass ceiling yet again in this brilliant black comedy. Theresa Rebeck returns to the Alley after the hugely successful Mauritius, Bad Dates and The Scene with her latest comedy, "probing how sexism remains well entrenched in the work-place, not least when pitting women against each other in a boys' club atmosphere" (Variety).

Scott Schwartz (the Alley's Mauritius, Othello, Much Ado About Nothing) returns to direct.

"The two new plays this season, Ether Dome by Elizabeth Egloff and What We're Up Against by Theresa Rebeck, are the latest fruits of the Alley Theatre's New Play Initiative Program created by Gregory Boyd and me," explains Senior Dramaturg and Director of New Play Development Mark Bly. "Egloff and Rebeck's plays have an urgency, an immediacy whose issues will speak to our community and national audiences. We are proud to be helping to launch the work of two major artists and offering the fullest production values and support to enhance Egloff and Rebeck's theatrical poetry and astonishing imagination for our stage and beyond."

Noises OffBy Michael Frayn Directed by Gregory Boyd May 25 - June 24, 2012 Mature themes; General audiences. The funniest of modern comedies, and a farce within a farce, Noises Off takes the clichés of the genre and shakes them up in a wild comic blender into a hilarious melee of compromising situations and eccentric characters as they stampede in and out of doors, voices rising, trousers falling - to create something truly brilliant and unique. A tour de force for the actors and a special treat for audiences. "As side-splitting a farce as I have ever seen. Ever? Ever!" - New York Magazine. "Is, was and probably always will be, the funniest play written in my lifetime" - Frank Rich. A playwright, novelist and journalist born in London, Michael Frayn first established his reputation with witty, gently satirical columns in The Manchester Guardian and The Observer. He wrote a series of novels in the same vein, including The Russian Interpreter (1966). His many plays include Copenhagen, Benefactors, Alphabetical Order, and Clouds. He also wrote the script for the film Clockwise and the novel The Trick of It.


Houston's Holiday Favorite A Christmas Carol - A Ghost Story of ChristmasBy Charles Dickens Adapted and Originally Directed by Michael Wilson Directed by James Black November 18 - December 27, 2011 Recommended for general audiences. Houston's seasonal favorite that the Houston Press described as having "Spectacular London sets ...the inimitable Dickens' tale - spiced with the usual fog and an unusual twist on the ghosts past, present and future." A Christmas Carol - A Ghost Story of Christmas returns this year with a re-telling of Charles Dickens' classic story, that follows Ebenezer Scrooge's journey with the three ghostly spirits that visit him on Christmas Eve. A Christmas Carol instills a powerful message about redemption and the spirit of the holiday season.

David Sedaris' Irreverent Holiday Comedy The Santaland DiariesBy David Sedaris Adapted for the stage by Joe Mantello Directed by David Cromer November 30 - December 31, 2011 Recommended for mature audiences due to language and subject matter.

Company Artist Todd Waite reprises his role as "Crumpet the Elf" in the outlandish, and true, chronicles of David Sedaris' experience as a worker in Macy's SantaLand display. This compact, one-character comedy is an hilarious cult classic, featuring comic encounters during the height of the holiday crunch. NPR humorist and best-selling author of Me Talk Pretty One Day and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, David Sedaris has become one of America's pre-eminent humor writers.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
Contact: Margaret Downing