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News: Alliance Theatre announces ambitious 2014–15 season with seven world premieres

Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon as "Crash" Davis and Annie Savoy in the film version of "Bull Durham."
Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon as "Crash" Davis and Annie Savoy in the film version of "Bull Durham."
Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon as “Crash” Davis and Annie Savoy in the film version of Bull Durham.

The Alliance Theatre announced its 2014-15 season today, which will feature seven world premieres, including new plays by Pearl Cleage and U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey and the debut of a musical based on the classic movie Bull Durham.

“The 2014–15 season is full of people, stories and human moments that are simply larger than life,” said artistic director Susan Booth. “Because life lived large takes you all over the emotional map, we’ve got a season that does the same, spanning passion, epiphany, history, humor and mortality.”

And baseball.

The main stage season kicks off September 3 with another big ticket gamble from the Alliance. Last year, it was Barry Manilow’s Harmony; in 2012, the theater debuted Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, written by Stephen King and John Mellencamp. This time, it’s a musical version of the iconic film Bull Durham, acclaimed by Sports Illustrated as the best sports movie of all time. The Alliance is putting its money on a book written by Ron Shelton, who directed and wrote the film, with music and lyrics by folk singer Susan Werner.

In October, the Alliance will return to the tried-and-true with Steel Magnolias, which was turned into a film in 1989 with an ensemble cast that featured Julia Roberts, Sally Field, Dolly Parton and Shirley MacLaine. The Alliance version will be directed by Tony Award–winning actress Judith Ivey, who is perhaps best known for her role on the popular CBS series Designing Women.

The holiday season will be anchored, as usual, with the Alliance’s staging of A Christmas Carol. This year, however, will mark a major transition for the production as Chris Kayser has bowed out of the role of Ebenezer Scrooge he owned for 16 years.

In January comes another world premiere musical, Tuck Everlasting, based on the best-selling novel by Natalie Babbitt. Tony Award winner Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon, The Drowsy Chaperone, Spamalot) will direct and choreograph the production. The book is by Tony Award nominee Claudia Shear (Dirty Blonde), with music and lyrics by Chris Miller and Nathan Tysen.

The Alliance will stage James and the Giant Peach in March. Based on the popular children’s novel by Roald Dahl, the play creates a young boy’s wild and surreal world of magic and adventure.

Pearl Cleage, left, with Susan Booth.
Pearl Cleage, left, with Susan Booth.

The main stage season will close with the world premiere of Cleage’s Tell Me My Dream. The play is set in Atlanta and focuses on a family for whom music is as necessary as freedom and a city that is just beginning to hear their song. The play, directed by Booth, weaves together Atlanta’s history with present-day events.

The Hertz Stage season begins in September with the world premiere of Trethewey’s Native Guard, based on her Pulitzer Prize–winning collection of poems. Directed by Booth, the play is adapted for the stage with two perspectives: the Emory professor’s experiences as the child of a then-illegal marriage between her black mother and white father in 1960s Mississippi, and the experience of a soldier in the Native Guard, the first African American Union troop in the Civil War who was charged with guarding white Confederate captives.

The play is part of the National Civil War Project — a partnership between major theaters and universities to create original theatrical productions and innovative academic programming inspired by the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War.

The Hertz Stage will also host It’s a Wonderful Laugh, a holiday production by Dad’s Garage where the audience will choose a pop culture figure to “invade” the telling of the Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life.

In February, the Hertz Stage will host The C.A. Lyon’s Project, written by Tsehaye Geralyn Hébert, winner of the 2015 Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition. The play is set in the ’80s, just as the founder of the most important African American dance company learns he is dying of AIDS, and the three lead dancers must push to keep the company going.

That will be followed in March by the world premiere of Edward Foote, a Southern Gothic mystery told against the backdrop of folk songs and haunting shape-note singing. The play was written by Phillip DePoy, a pillar of the Atlanta theater community with a long tenure directing university theater programs.

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