Early in 2018, the Harlequin Productions ship hit the shoals of the #MeToo movement. Alleged sexual harassment of actors and staff led to rapid changes in staff and policies. (Read more at OlyArts.com/harlequin) On June 1, at the company’s annual Season Announcement Gala, Eclectica!, Harlequin sets a new course for next year.
“We have an opportunity to right the ship and grow with more velocity,” says new Associate Artistic Director Aaron Lamb. “The artistic legacy is intact, and we are focused on continuing that legacy into the future in a healthy and dynamic manner.”
Harlequin emerged from their near shipwreck with a new vision for stellar local theater. The 2019 season includes more laughs and melody: four comedies are programmed, alongside two musicals. A classic Neil Simon play and a classic Henrik Ibsen drama will grace the stage, as well as a powerful piece by feminist playwright Caryl Churchill, known for her focus on sexual politics.
“What we owe the community is a theater company that challenges the community and creates the conditions for dialogue and social change,” explains Lamb. “I am excited about the season that we’ve planned.”
The new season begins in December with a new “episode” of Stardust helmed by Linda Whitney. “The Stardust Christmas Groove” will be set in 1962 and will continue Harlequin’s annual celebration of American pop music for the holidays. This is the twenty-third season for this alternative holiday musical.
Next in January, the Neil Simon comedy “I Ought to Be In Pictures” focuses on a Hollywood scriptwriter who is unexpectedly confronted by his teenage daughter. The original play was a huge Simon hit — the show ran on Broadway for 324 performances and the film version starred Walter Matthau and Ann-Margret.
“The Women,” by renowned American playwright, politician and author Clare Booth Luce, will be staged in February. Focusing on Manhattan socialites, the play turns on gossip, backbiting and wicked humor. Featuring an all-women cast, the original play has been adapted to both television and film. The most recent film version starred Jada Pinkett Smith, Meg Ryan, Eva Mendes and Annette Bening in 2008.
Harlequin patrons will remember Aaron Lamb’s striking modern version of Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler” in 2016. In May 2019, Lamb will return to Henrik Ibsen by directing “A Doll’s House” at Harlequin. Ibsen’s story of a woman’s repression, crime, blackmail and marriage, should be riveting.
“Man of La Mancha” was last staged in Olympia in 2007. This classic musical tells the story of the “mad” knight, Don Quixote, as a play within a play performed by Cervantes and his fellow prisoners as he awaits a hearing with the Spanish Inquisition. The classic play will get an update next June – Lamb plans to create orchestrations in a traditional Mexican banda style.
After the humor and music of “La Mancha,” Harlequin will showcase “Blackbird” in August, a mature drama about a woman who confronts her abuser after fifteen years. Faced with the consequences of his actions, the abuser is forced to reconcile his present life with his past. In 2016, “Blackbird” won a Tony for Best Revival of a Play.
The season finishes up in October with Caryl Churchill’s challenging drama “Love and Information,” a play that variously confronts the abuse of power, information overload and human empathy. “Love” is an unusual play composed of seven sections and a number of short scenes, with over 100 characters, played by the same actors.
As Harlequin works on their season for next year, existing staff have been supplemented by new leadership. Management of the theater is being conducted by Interim Executive Director Hap Clemmons. The Board has asked Associate Artistic Director Aaron Lamb to provide artistic leadership during this transition time.
Lamb brings to Harlequin a twenty-year career in directing and acting. He has appeared in sixteen Harlequin shows. His regional work also includes eleven shows at Taproot in Seattle, and roles with Seattle Shakespeare, the Village Theater and on the Kennedy Center Stage. Lamb was also a resident company member at Playhouse on the Square in Memphis, Tennessee. He holds an MFA in Acting from California State, Fullerton. He stated that his mission at Harlequin as Associate Artistic Director is to uphold the theater’s artistic legacy and engage with the local community in this time of transition.
“Theater is our social dialogue,” says Lamb. “We need a way to talk about our existence, where we are headed, and theater affords us the opportunity to learn, be entertained and grow from our experience.”
WHAT: Harlequin Productions Theater Season
Announced at Eclectica!, annual season announcement gala event
Eclectica ! June 1
The Stardust Christmas Groove Nov 29 – Dec 31, 2018
I Ought To Be In Pictures Jan 17 – Feb 9, 2019
The Women Feb 28 – March 23, 2019
A Doll’s House May 2 – May 25, 2019
Man of La Mancha June 20 – July 20, 2019
Blackbird Aug 15 – Sept 14, 2019
Love and Information Oct 3 – Oct 26, 2019
Harlequin Productions State Theater, 202 4th Avenue E Olympia WA
HarlequinProductions.org | 360-786-0151