The American Repertory Theater’s 2017-18 lineup, announced Tuesday, will feature four world premieres — including an adaptation of Alanis Morissette’s iconic 1995 album “Jagged Little Pill” and a coproduction with ArtsEmerson of Claudia Rankine’s “The White Card” — plus an adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility.”
“We’re looking for artists across a wide spectrum of the arts who have a voice that will speak to the times we’re living in,” says Diane Paulus, the theater’s artistic director.
The first offering, at Oberon in August, will be the world premiere of “Burn All Night,” a musical with book and lyrics by Andy Mientus (“Smash”) and a score by Teen Commandments members Van Hughes, Nick LaGrasta, and Brett Moses. Jenny Koons (“A Sucker Emcee,” “In This Moment”) will direct. The story has four young people coming to the city on the eve of a global catastrophe. “This was a show we’ve been hoping to develop at Oberon,” Paulus says. “The music is sensational, and it was an opportunity to take a group of up-and-coming artists and give them an outlet to develop their work.”
September will bring to the Loeb Drama Center another world premiere, “Warhol Capote,” which builds on audio tapes from the 1970s in which Andy Warhol and Truman Capote discussed their plans for a Broadway show that never materialized. Paulus says Tony nominee Rob Roth (“Beauty and the Beast”) read about these tapes in Warhol’s diaries and “got permission from the Warhol Foundation and the Capote Trust to listen to them. They had never been heard before. And he transcribed them and created this ‘non-fiction’ invention where every word is from either Warhol or Capote. Here are two incredible luminary figures speaking about issues of celebrity and the media and art and the meaning of art and freedom of expression in America.” Tony winner Michael Mayer (“Spring Awakening”) directs.
Earlier this month, the New York–based theater company Bedlam won an Elliot Norton Award for its innovative production of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” at the Central Square Theater. In December, ART brings Bedlam’s adaptation of “Sense and Sensibility ” to the Loeb. “We’ve been wanting to work with Bedlam for years,” Paulus says. “They animate classic literature, but they do it in a way that is constantly moving and shifting, and it’s so alive and theatrical. You can’t help but fall in love with their sense of play.”
In April 2016, ART presented “Hear Word! Naija Woman Talk True” in a three-night run at the Harvard Dance Theater. In January, this song-and-dance show, in which Nigerian women discuss their lives, will come to the Loeb. Paulus says that when they did “Hear Word!” the first time, “not enough people had the opportunity to experience it. Ifeoma Fafunwa [who directed] is a Radcliffe Fellow this coming year, and that seemed the perfect opportunity to work on the show and redo it. So that’s why we’re bringing it back.”
“The White Card” is a world premiere written by Rankine that ART is producing in conjunction with ArtsEmerson and presenting at the Paramount Center’s Robert J. Orchard Stage starting in February. Rankine’s 2014 bestseller, “Citizen,” addressed racism; “The White Card” is set at a dinner party that a wealthy Manhattan couple are throwing for a rising African-American artist. Paulus directs.
“This is a play that has been inspired by ‘Citizen,’ ” she says. “We don’t often see whiteness, and that can be an issue in how conversations around race in America have progressed. I think Claudia is such an incredible figure and thinker in America right now.”
Finally, in May, there’s “Jagged Little Pill,” a world premiere based on the album by Morissette, in which “Alanis captured the voice of the time, which was very much about standing up to authority and abuse and harassment and gender,” Paulus says. “And to me the songs feel more resonant than ever.”
She adds, “We’re not putting the album on stage like a rock concert.” The company is working with Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody (“Juno”) to create “a story that moves these songs to the present moment.” Paulus again directs.
Season subscriptions will be available to renewing subscribers starting June 1 and to the general public starting June 8. In addition to the subscription series, ART is presenting its annual winter family show on the Loeb stage in December. This year, Dmitry Troyanovsky will direct Joseph Robinette’s adaptation of E.B. White children’s classic “Charlotte’s Web,” which will be performed by the ART Institute for Advanced Theater Training Class of 2018.