Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre will start its “Lucky 13” season “trampling out the vintage” with the American classic “The Grapes of Wrath” and end it frolicking down “Avenue Q,” one of the most popular and outrageous musicals of the past decade.
In between, the professional theater company will stage three hot new plays — the intimate comedy “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” the Martin Luther King drama “The Mountaintop” and the one-woman tour de force “The Amish Project” — as part of its ongoing mission to offer a full spectrum of theatrical experiences.
“We are sort of the flagship regional theater for our state,” said founding artistic director Donald Jordan, adding the company is the only state theater that is a member of Theatre Communications Group, the national organization for the American theater.
“Part of our guiding principle as a regional theater is that we actually pick a very eclectic season rather than a theme season. That is constant. If we need a moniker to hang on it, this is our 13th season. So, we’re calling it ‘Lucky 13.’”
The 2014-15 run will be a season of city, state and regional premieres for Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre, or CityRep, but business manager Jon Haque said the focus is always on making its productions relevant to Oklahomans. For instance, CityRep will stage the fact-based, school-shooting drama “The Amish Project” around the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing.
“‘The Amish Project’ is a great story about incredible tragedy followed up by incredible generosity of the spirit ... which is like Oklahomans (when) we went through the bombing,” he said. “I think Okies have always been strong and resilient. Like ‘The Grapes of Wrath,’ we went through that terrible time. And Okies just kind of became closer through that.”
CityRep will open its season with the first professional production in the state of “The Grapes of Wrath,” to mark the 75th anniversary of John Steinbeck’s Dust Bowl epic about an Oklahoma farm family driven from its homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California.
Although it has been previously performed by Oklahoma school and community companies, Jordan said CityRep’s Sept. 26 through Oct. 5 staging will be the state’s first production of “The Grapes of Wrath” by an Actors Equity Association theater. A co-production with the Oklahoma History Center and Oklahoma City University’s School of Theatre, it will feature a cast of 40 performing at OCU’s Burg Theatre, making it one of the biggest endeavors in CityRep’s history.
“It’s the Tony Award-winning adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by the Noble Laureate author, considered one of the 10 greatest books in the American canon. It’s uniquely tied to the Oklahoma literary heritage and experience, and there’s never been a professional Equity production (in the state),” Jordan said.
“On this 75th anniversary, the whole nation is now turning its eyes to us and our production while we recognize and celebrate that enduring part of the Oklahoma heritage: courage, persistence, common decency, love for our fellow man.”
The National Steinbeck Center in California has made the production an official part of its “Grapes of Wrath” 75th anniversary celebration, Jordan said.
“It’s just inherently Okie, whether you agree with the novel or not,” Haque added. “What you get out of the whole experience of ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ is these people take care of each other. And they don’t know each other. I think that mentality has carried over even to today ... that Okies are always known to be just the nicest people on the planet.”
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Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre 2014-15 season
‘The Grapes of Wrath’
‘Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike’
‘The Amish Project’