Entertainment

Harlequin faces women’s issues head on with plays selected for 2019 season

Actors, from left, Maggie Ferguson-Wagstaffe, Christian Doyle and Bruce Haasl in 2017’s “The Stardust Christmas Fandango" produced by Harlequin Productions. The theater company has revamped its 2019, but there will still be a Stardust installment during the holidays.
Actors, from left, Maggie Ferguson-Wagstaffe, Christian Doyle and Bruce Haasl in 2017’s “The Stardust Christmas Fandango" produced by Harlequin Productions. The theater company has revamped its 2019, but there will still be a Stardust installment during the holidays. Courtesy of Harlequin Productions

Harlequin Productions, rocked by allegations that a visiting playwright harassed actresses, will devote much of its 2019 season to plays that explore women’s place in society.

And founder Scot Whitney, who resigned amid concerns about how the company handled a 2011 incident, just might return to direct “Love and Information,” a show he’d championed.

“While it's not clear whether Scot will be able to direct moving forward, we hope to at least allow ourselves the opportunity for this possibility as a kind of healing,” Aaron Lamb, the theater’s associate artistic director, told The Olympian. Lamb, a longtime actor and director, now is leading the company with artistic director Linda Whitney, Scot Whitney’s wife.

The 2019 season, which begins in December, was revised after a March 16 Seattle Times article about playwright Israel Horovitz’s alleged harassment of actresses at Harlequin when he visited the theater, which produced six of his plays between 2009 and 2014.

“We wanted to program work that would serve as an answer to the current changes and movements in our society — #MeToo and #TrustWomen — and to our own situation and learning,” Lamb said. “Hopefully, this will allow us to lead the conversation in the community — not to be the change we want to see, but in fact to lead the change we want to bring.”

That meant adding Clare Boothe Luce’s “The Women,” Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” and David Harrower’s “Blackbird” — all focused on the roles of women while also offering juicy roles for women. All were works under consideration for future seasons, Lamb said.

Still, the mix of shows — serious, quirky, comical, musical — will feel familiar to Harlequin regulars.

And yes, Virginia, there is a Stardust for the winter holidays. “The Stardust Christmas Groove” will be the last original in the series of musical retrospectives, Linda Whitney said.

Perhaps the most surprising choice for the coming season is “Man of La Mancha,” is a departure from Harlequin’s focus on contemporary and original musicals with a rock-and-roll slant.

But this “Man,” which had been chosen for the season before the Times article, is getting a makeover; Lamb will create new orchestrations in traditional Mexican banda style.

And the show fits the season’s theme, too, Linda Whitney pointed out. “The hero is dedicated to a woman who has been violated and has very low self esteem, but he sees her as a goddess,” she said. “There is a very important woman in ‘Man of La Mancha.’ ”

Harlequin Productions 2019 season

The theater’s 28th season spotlights women — and plays that address women’s place in society.

When: Evening shows at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and matinees at 2 p.m. Sundays

Where: State Theater, 202 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia

Tickets: For straight plays, $34 general admission, $31 for seniors and military, $20 for students and youth; for “Stardust,” $49 general admission, $45 for seniors and military, $25 for students and youth; for other musicals, $41 general admission, $37 for seniors and military, $25 for students and youth. Discounted rush tickets are available a half-hour prior to curtain, and pay-what-you-can shows happen on the first Wednesday after opening weekend.

Season tickets: $150-$205 for the full seven-show package, $139-$227 for flex passes that allow you to choose available seats for any performance of four, six or all seven productions

More information: 360-786-0151, harlequinproductions.org

The shows

  • “The Stardust Christmas Groove” (Nov. 29-Dec. 31): The 23rd in Harlequin’s popular series of original holiday musical comedies will be set in 1962.
  • “I Ought To Be In Pictures” (Jan. 17-Feb. 9): Neil Simon takes on another odd couple in this 1979 comedy about a screenwriter and the teenage daughter he hasn’t seen in 16 years.
  • “The Women” (Feb. 28-March 23): Clare Boothe Luce’s 1936 comedy of manners has a large all-female cast.
  • “A Doll's House” (May 2-25): In Henrik Ibsen’s classic drama, a housewife finds herself stifled by the restrictions society places on women.
  • “Man of La Mancha”: Inspired by Cervantes’ “Don Quixote,” this 1965 musical-theater classic by Dale Wasserman inspired won five Tony Awards and has been revived four times on Broadway.
  • “Blackbird” (Aug. 15-Sept. 14): A woman sexually abused as a 12-year-old confronts her accuser in this intense drama by David Harrower.
  • “Love and Information” (Oct. 3-26): This kaleidoscopic comic drama by respected British playwright Caryl Churchill is made up of 57 tiny plays, some lasting only a few seconds.
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