PORTLAND — The Portland Stage announced its 2020-21 season on Facebook Live on May 23, which included a state of theater segment to address public safety in its programming and membership seating plan during the coronavirus pandemic. The digital season launch can be viewed at www.portlandstage.org/2020-21-season-announcement.

The event was moderated by Portland Stage Executive and Artistic Director Anita Stewart along with co-hosts playwright and Broadway Tony Award nominated actor, John Cariani, and his fellow 2019-20 Portland Stage “Almost, Maine” cast members: Samantha Rosentrater, Raymond MacAnally and Kathleen McCafferty, who helped present “The Cake” by Bekah Brunstetter and “Talley’s Folly” by Lanford Wilson as well as co-host the State of the Theater discussion at the 50-minute mark.

The season announcement started with the already canceled 2020 summer co-production musical with Maine State Music Theatre, “The Ring of Fire,” created by Richard Maltby Jr. and conceived by Bill Meade as a jumping-off point to discuss how the 2020-21 season programming, and the timing of its performances, will be in flux to keep the community and its patrons safe. Both MSMT Artistic Director Curt Dale Clark and Portland Stage Executive and Artistic Director Anita Stewart expressed their desire to bring the canceled 2020 performance back to the Portland Mainstage in the summer of 2021.

Stewart also interviewed Keith Powell Beyland, dramatic repertory company artistic director, Vanessa Beyland, DRC board of trustees, and Director Sally Wood to announce a new partnership to bring “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller to the Mainstage.

Three world-premieres were also announced. The first one, “Perseverance” by Callie Kimball, a Maine-based playwright commissioned by Portland Stage and the Maine Suffrage Centennial Collaborative, was timed to coincide with the centennial of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the right to vote. “Perseverance” was workshopped last season at Portland Stage during a staged reading and will get another live reading of a scene during the Digital Live Stream Little Festival of the Unexpected at 7 p.m. Friday, May 29.

Director Jade King Carroll was announced for the Mainstage project. Also mentioned was the unique opportunity for Kimball to rewrite and include the current pandemic. “ . . . things have changed, but some are still the same . . . Right now with the pandemic we have children who are being denied equal access to an education because they live in rural areas with limited internet capabilities, or you have children who maybe there’s one device in the whole house and  they have to share with siblings who also have classwork that they now have to figure out how to do online. So, there are challenges around the inequality in both time periods that are very synced up right now specifically.”

The second planned world premiere, “Senior Living,” included an interview with its playwrighting team, Grammy-nominated songwriter, Tor Hyams, and veteran Broadway performer, Lisa St. Lou (“The Producers”) and their friend, playwright and actor John Cariani, who not only recommended the script to Anita Stewart, but shared Stewart’s desire to have a warm, smart script featuring senior citizens with the playwrights.

The third play in the lineup of world premieres, “Sabina,” is a play that was canceled during the 2019-20 season due to the pandemic. Playwright Willy Holtzman, who holds two Pulitzer Prize nominations, a Humanitas Prize, a Writers Guild Award, a Peabody Award, as well as an HBO Award from the National Playwrights Conference, was interviewed about his musical.

The rest of the guest lineup was rounded out by Broadway actor and Maine native Scott Moreau and Literary Manager Todd Brian Backus.

The event also rolled out Portland Stage’s season rebranding with a bold, contemporary palette and images with a vintage nod to the history of the city’s architecture and history

The 2020-21 season will be offered as follows:

“Ring of Fire”; creator, Richard Maltby Jr.; conceived by Bill Meade
From the songbook of Johnny Cash comes the musical about love and faith, struggle and success, rowdiness and redemption, and the healing power of home and family. More than two dozen classic hits — including “I Walk the Line,” “A Boy Named Sue,” “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Ring of Fire,” performed by a talented cast, paint a musical portrait of the Man in Black that promises to be a foot-stompin’, crowd-pleasin’ salute to a unique musical legend. It features Broadway and National Tour performers, including Maine native Scott Moreau, who starred in MSMT’s “Million Dollar Quartet” and “Walkin’ the Line.”

“Perseverance” by Callie Kimball, world premiere
In the fictional town of Hillcroft, Maine, a 19th century African-American schoolteacher is determined to elevate her students. One hundred years later, in the same place, a white teacher is running for office. As the two stories intertwine, ownership of history takes center stage. It was commissioned by Portland Stage and by the Maine Suffrage Centennial Collaborative timed to coincide with the centennial of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the right to vote.

“The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
Arthur Miller’s classic tale based on the Salem Witch Trials and the Red Scare gets a contemporary brush-up as rumors of witchcraft in an isolated community lead to deadly accusations.

“Senior Living” by Tor Hyams and Lisa St. Lou, world premiere
A play about people dying to live. In a retirement community in Riverdale, New York, seniors contemplate life’s most pressing issues: sex, golf and rice pudding. A talent show sets the scene for vignettes that debate what to do with the time we have left.

“The Cake” by Bekah Brunstetter
Della’s dreamed of baking a wedding cake for her best friend’s daughter, Jen. But when Jen comes home from NYC with a female fiance, Della doesn’t know what to do. This deliciously funny comedy examines what happens when what we believe comes in conflict with those we love.

“Talley’s Folly” by Lanford Wilson
After a year of writing letters, Matt Friedman travels from St. Louis to Lebanon, Missouri, to try and convince Sally Talley to marry him. As the two reexamine their relationship, they explore the complexities of human connection and the different forms a romantic partnership can take.

“Sabina” by Willy Holtzman, with music by Louise Beach and lyrics by Darrah Cloud
This moving new musical illuminates Sabina Spielrein, a patient turned doctor, unfairly sidelined to the margins of history by two famous men in her field of psychiatry, Jung and Freud. Mark the centennial of women’s suffrage with a journey through melody and song to discover this remarkable woman.

“A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens
Celebrate the holidays with this timeless tale that embodies the season: love, family and the spirit of goodwill. See it brought to life on-stage, with charming costumes, delightful music and a few ghostly apparitions. This magical production is perfect for the entire family, guaranteed to warm the heart of every Scrooge.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.