There's always something interesting happening at Blackfriars Theatre. Artistic and Managing Director Danny Hoskins and Development Manager Mary Tiballi Hoffman, on Monday evening, announced the company's 2017-18 season from folding chairs in the back of a red pickup truck -- the leftover centerpiece from "Hands on a Hardbody" -- previewing six main productions, a year-long residency with "Big Wigs," and new community partnerships and outreach programs.
Blackfriars has set a mission to focus on more female artists and stories during its upcoming season, opening September 1 with an gender-bending retelling of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night," updated to the 1920's and featuring an all-female cast. WallByrd Theatre's Virginia Monte will direct PUSH Physical Theatre's "Dracula" (beginning October 31). For Blackfriars' holiday show, an all-female artistic team will stage "Little Women: The Musical." Then in March, Kerry Young will direct Sarah Treem's drama "When We Were Young and Unafraid."
The season will also include "Glengarry Glen Ross" in February, and ends with "Avenue Q" in May 2018. The Blackfriars Theatre Summer Intensive -- the company's program for performers in high school and college -- will stage its sophomore production, "Grease," this summer.
Among the company's special events, Mrs. Kasha Davis and Aggy Dune will have a full-year residency, with dates in July, October, and December, moving their popular, long-running "Big Wigs" show from Golden Ponds (cause, you know, the place had some problems).
The Hourglass Play Reading Series, Blackfriars Comedy Series, and the 24-Hour Musical Theatre Festival all return, and the theater will again be a venue for the KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival in September.
Tiballi Hoffman, who just passed a successful first year at Blackfriars, announced a few new community engagement programs for the season. The company is continuing its partnerships with Nazareth College's Visual Communications Design Program and RIT's theater department, and hopes to partner with local organizations for specific purposes during each show. Tiballi Hoffman gave examples of a blood drive during "Dracula," a book drive during "Little Women," and panel discussions during "When We Were Young and Unafraid." The theater is also trying a pilot program with the YWCA, Gilda's Club, The Breast Cancer Coalition, Sojourner House, and Women Sanctuary to offer free tickets to clients of those charities.
Season subscriptions to Blackfriars' 2017-18 season are now on sale by phone at 454-1260, or online at blackfriars.org. There are five plans available, ranging from $90 to $185. The full season follows.
Blackfriars' 2017-18 main season
"Twelfth Night" (September 1 through September 23): An all-female retelling of Shakespeare's comedy, updated to the 1920's. Directed by Alexa Scott-Flaherty, and will feature original music by Rochester composers.
"Dracula" (October 31 through November 12): Conceived and performed by PUSH Physical Theatre, and written by Danny Hoskins, this is a movement-based retelling of the horror story from the eyes of the spider-hungry Renfield, Dracula's human servant. This production was workshopped in 2009, and Hoskins and PUSH collaborated again for "Jekyll and Hyde" during Blackfriars' 2015-16 season. Adding another fantastic layer to this show, WallByrd's Virginia Monte -- who is known for adding unique twists on classic works -- will direct.
"Little Women: The Musical" (December 15 through December 31): Based on Louisa May Alcott's book, Blackfriars' holiday show will directed by Patti Lewis Browne with musical direction by Julie Covach and choreography by Mandi Lynn Griffith-Gurell.
"Glengarry Glen Ross" (February 2 through February 18): David Mamet's Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play about cutthroat real estate salesmen. Brian Coughlin directs. Maybe they'll get coffee after closing.
"When We Were Young and Unafraid" (March 23 through April 8): Set before Roe v. Wade and the Violence Against Women Act, a woman runs turns her bed and breakfast into a safe place for victims of domestic violence. Kerry Young directs this play by Sarah Treem.
"Avenue Q" (May 11 through May 27): Apparently, Rochesterians really like this dirty, puppet musical for adults. Danny Hoskins will direct with musical direction by Andy Pratt and choreography by Mandy Hassett.
"Grease" (July 7 through July 16, 2017): The sophomore production of the Blackfriars Theatre Summer Intensive. Directed by Danny Hoskins with musical direction by Andy Pratt and choreography by Lani Toyama Hoskins.
"Big Wigs": Mrs. Kasha Davis and Aggy Dune bring their long-running drag show to Blackfriars for a year-long residency. Performances July 20-23; October 13-15; and December 1-3.
Hourglass Play Reading Series: The in-house play reading series will host five readings throughout the season.
Blackfriars comedy series: Unleashed! Improv and Canary in a Coal Mine will host four late-night events and two weekend comedy shows this season.
24-Hour Musical Theatre Festival: Writers & Books will again partner with Blackfriars for the intense race to write a new short musical or play within 24 hours.
KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival (September 14 through September 23)