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Artistic director Will Davis of American Theater Company
Photograph: Andrew NawrockiArtistic director Will Davis of American Theater Company

American Theater Company’s 2016–17 season: three new plays and Inge’s ‘Picnic’

Written by
Kris Vire

American Theater Company has announced its 2016–17 season, the first slate to be chosen by new artistic director Will Davis. The lineup includes two world premieres, a new play that Davis previously directed in New York, and Davis’s “loving reimagining” of the William Inge classic Picnic.

The season opens with the world premiere of Dan Aibel’s T. (September 23–October 30), an examination of l'affaire Tonya Harding–Nancy Kerrigan. Margot Bordelon directs. In Chicago, Aibel’s play The Meaning of Lunch had a workshop as part of Stage Left Theatre's LeapFest 7 in 2010.

Next up is the regional premiere of Men on Boats (January 6–February 12), by Jaclyn Backhaus. Davis directed the premiere of the play, which cheekily retells the story of the Powell expedition down the Colorado River using a cast that includes no cis-gender males to portray the all-male explorers, last summer as part of Clubbed Thumb’s Summerworks, and will restage it this summer at Off Broadway’s Playwrights Horizons before bringing it to ATC.

In We’re Gonna Be Okay (March 17–April 23), a world-premiere dark comedy by Basil Kreimendahl, two families work through national and neighborly fear as the Cuban Missile Crisis looms. Kreimendahl workshopped their play with ATC and the Araca Group in 2015; Bonnie Metzgar directs.

The final entry is Davis’s take on Picnic (May 19–June 25), which promises to “put Inge at the center of his Pulitzer Prize–winning play” in a staging that will wrestle with the mid-century playwright’s closeted homosexuality and “a life lived at the periphery of one’s own desire.”

All told, the season reflects much of what Davis, now one of the most prominent transgender arts leaders in the country, told me about his programming philosophy in a recent interview for Time Out Chicago’s summer print edition. “I only direct plays and will only be programming plays that need the theater,” Davis said. “What that means we're not programming is sort of topical, issue-driven plays about people in apartments with problems who talk to each other for two hours. That's just not what I make, and many people make it very well.” Look for more with Davis in our summer issue, out beginning June 7.

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