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ANN ARBOR – Theatre Nova unveils the two remaining plays of its 2015 season, following a successful Indiegogo funding campaign and well-received productions in the first half of the year. As well, the company reveals a change to its previously announced lineup. Theatre Nova’s 2015 season – which runs January through December to coincide with the calendar year (and not the typical theater season September through May) – will continue through December 2015. Nova’s second season (2016) will be announced in December.
The fourth play of the 2015 season, which replaced the previously scheduled World Premiere musical “Irrational,” was “Jihad Jones and the Kalashnikov Babes” by Yussef El Guindi, a comedy that weighs the lure of success against our ability to look ourselves in the mirror each day. Ashraf, a struggling Arab-American actor in Los Angeles, is offered his big break in a Hollywood action blockbuster: playing an evil Islamist terrorist, the sort of grotesque caricature seen all too often in popular films. El Guindi’s script offers fast-paced, razor-edge laughs, in a blistering satire that is both outrageous and thought provoking without being preachy. Artistic Director Carla Milarch directs, with Daniel C. Walker providing production design. Jihad Jones ran July 24-Aug. 16.
Straight from its New York run at Women’s Project Theatre, “Bright Half Life” by Pulitzer Prize nominee Tanya Barfield will be the fifth show of 2015. The play follows two women on a dreamlike journey through their life together, encompassing marriage, work, children and skydiving. Time Out New York wrote, “For sheer loveliness, you won’t surpass Tanya Barfield’s exquisite ‘Bright Half Life.'” The team at Theatre Nova was stunned by the script’s quick pacing and sly travel through time, where a single scene traverses decades in an instant. Producing Director Daniel C. Walker will direct and provide production design. “Bright Half Life” will run Oct. 1-25.
Theatre Nova will close its 2015 season with its first original show: “An Almost British Christmas,” a holiday romp inspired by the British tradition of pantomime (or “panto”) which takes children’s stories and injects Vaudeville sensibility to create raucous family entertainment. The story will track two unsophisticated Americans who attempt a British pantomime using American iconography and traditions; the result is an unusually American panto featuring local celebrities, pop culture references and choirs of local schoolchildren — a truly unique way to celebrate the holiday season. Carla Milarch will direct, with Daniel C. Walker providing production design. “An Almost British Christmas” will run Nov. 27-Dec. 20.
Artistic Director Milarch said, “A theater company’s work is really one of curation, taking the hundreds of plays available for production and culling them down to just five or six that will excite and stimulate our audience. We produce exclusively new plays, so we focus on finding the most important new plays you need to see and the most important new playwriting voices you need to hear. Our 2015 season features some of the most exciting new scripts in the country, like ‘Grounded’ and ‘Buyer & Cellar,’ and new pieces by important playwrights like Pulitzer Prize nominee Tanya Barfield’s ‘Bright Half Life,’ alongside undiscovered gems like ‘Jihad Jones and the Kalashnikov Babes,’ which are edgy and daring but need to be seen.
“Finally, our commitment to developing new work brings you World Premieres like ‘An Almost British Christmas’ – exposing you to an entirely new genre. We believe that one of the reasons people go to the theater is to discover something new and surprising. Every show in our season gives you that opportunity.”
Milarch commented on the replacement of “Irrational” with “Jihad Jones”: “Opening a theater company is an ambitious project. So is developing and mounting an eight-person musical. In this still critical stage of our development as an organization, we feel it is important that we do not stretch our resources, either financial or human, too thin. Even though we’re disappointed, we feel that this move is, strategically, the one that best ensures a solid foundation on which to build a future full of ambitious commissions and World Premieres. We’re in this for the long haul.”
All performances will be at the Yellow Barn (416 W. Huron, Ann Arbor), which Theatre Nova converts to an 80-seat “thrust stage” theater six times a year. The location offers free parking, as well as quick walking access to downtown; nearby reference points are the Ann Arbor YMCA, the Big City Small World bakery, The Last Word and the Sun Moon Yoga Studio. The entrance for parking is near the intersection of Huron Street and Chapin Street/3rd Street.
Theatre Nova has marked all performances as pay-what-you-can, with a suggested donation of $20 per ticket. The company is also offering annual memberships that include tickets to all six season productions, every show in the Michigan Playwrights’ Festival in November and each of its three children’s shows.