Janis Joplin, Eliza Doolittle, Martin Luther King Jr. and a play that had to be bumped from the current season are the big attractions on Arena Stage’s schedule for the 2012-2013 season. And the lineup looks pretty enticing.
One Night With Janis Joplin, a one-woman show about the rock pioneer, kicks off Arena’s next season September 28, coming here by way of Portland, Ore., where it debuted last September. Similarly, Arena is also mounting a few other recently written shows, perhaps none more notable than The Mountaintop, a depiction of King’s on the eve of his assassination in April 1968.
The play, by Katori Hall, who is a playwright-in-residence at Arena, recently closed a widely analyzed, if not acclaimed Broadway run starring Samuel L. Jackson as King and Angela Bassett as a maid at the Memphis, Tenn. motel where the civil rights leader spent his last night alive. But some of the criticisms of The Mountaintop’s New York run might work to its advantage when it comes to Arena Stage on March 29, 2013.
Of the production at the 1,101 Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, The New York Times’ Ben Brantley wrote:
A big-time New York incarnation-in a Broadway house with a fast-rising director (Kenny Leon, who staged the Tony-winning revival of Fences) and two formidable Hollywood stars-should give this story a triumphant final chapter. Yet it’s hard not to feel that The Mountaintop might have worked better in a smaller, lower-profile production. Its charms are those of an ingenious sketch. Mounting it on this scale turns out to be a bit like spinning gossamer into Dacron.
Arena’s Kreeger Theater is not so large, and, presumably, the cast will be different as well.
Also in March 2013, Arena will finally debut Tazewell Thompson’s Mary T. and Lizzy K., which was bumped off the current season after a federal grant Arena-and many other local arts organizations-depends on came up short. Thompson’s show, a world premiere that had to endure a year-long setback, depicts the relationship between Mary Todd Lincoln and her seamstress, Elizabeth Keckley, a former slave who became one the first lady’s closest confidantes.
Arena is also mounting another big musical, following its boffo 2010 run and 2011 remount of Oklahoma!. Artistic Director Molly Smith will helm a production of My Fair Lady, as sure to be a money-spinner as where the rain in Spain falls most often.
All the titles and dates, along with subscription packages, can be found on Arena’s website.