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What to expect from the Public Theater of San Antonio’s 2023-’24 season

A slate of five shows will be performed at the north-San Antonio venue amid ongoing challenges and a focus on sustainability.
Credit: KENS

SAN ANTONIO — The Public Theater of San Antonio is slimming down its season schedule next year in the hopes that it will put the century-old organization in a stronger position to perform for another 100 years.

Public Theater leaders on Tuesday night announced the five 2023-’24 shows that will be performed on the north-side venue’s mainstage. That’s down from eight in the current ongoing season, which ends in August with “Merrily We Roll Along.”

It’s by design, Executive Artistic Director Claudia de Vasco told KENS 5, and a necessary step when theaters around the country are struggling to return to pre-COVID success, though not because infections are putting shows on hold. 

“The energy is back, the want to be back is there. We all want to start producing the way we were before,” de Vasco said. “But unfortunately folks are not coming back to the theater the way (they were) prior to the pandemic.”

She also says theater is contending with a drop in season subscriptions, which is important for early preparation and planning. 

Attributing the developments to the years-long moment of transition the pandemic forced upon performing arts groups, de Vasco and her team at the Public are looking at the situation curtain-half-raised. She says the smaller number of shows will prevent crews from being stretched thin, instead allowing them the flexibility and time to make each show the best it can be. 

Another positive ripple effect, de Vasco says, is that with less productions overall, the Public Theatre will not be producing in the small Cellar performing space. That gives the Public’s two current resident theater companies – Teatro Audaz and Miscast – more time to use that space. More time will also be available for special one-off events between main stage shows, which have been organized under the season’s title: “Of Heroes, Journeys and Dreams.”

“We’re still rebuilding,” she added. “There’s been a lot of leadership shuffling around. That inevitably means changes in programming, in mission, in style, in quality.”

De Vasco, who arrived at the Public in the summer of 2021, has spent the early years of her tenure prioritizing inclusive storytelling and classics told through modern lenses. After the Public’s current season launched with the first production from a Latino playwright to be performed at the venue, next year’s slate will put a jazzy, New Orleans spin on Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” 

Dates have yet to be finalized for the show, this version of which has never been performed in Texas. It also marks the first Shakespeare play performed by the Public since 2008, and the first time “Twelfth Night” has been put on by the theater.

“It’s a really wonderful score,” de Vasco said. “It is still using Shakespeare’s language – it’s rearranged a bit – and it’s still giving our audiences the musical aspect they crave.”

The season continues with a holiday-season production of “A Xmas Cuento Remix.” Featuring bilingual songs and Chicano characters, it’s a contemporary take on a holiday story audiences will likely know: “A Christmas Carol.” De Vasco says the Public received strong feedback for its run of “American Mariachi,” which proved the city has a hunger for multicultural stories.

“It’s the same story, the same energy, the same tale, same theme—it just happens to be set in a context that maybe other San Antonians might relate to a little bit more.” 

Next, in early 2024 the Public will perform a punk-rock version of the 1891 German play “Spring Awakening,” which traces the teen years of several young friends. The contemporary version debuted in 2006 on Broadway before winning several Tonys and touring the country. 

The season’s penultimate show, “Intimate Apparel,” will dial down the music and represents the Public’s first “straight play,” as de Vasco puts it, on the theater’s main stage in a decade. 

Written by playwright Lynn Nottage and celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, “Intimate Apparel” centers around a Black woman’s journey of becoming an independent seamstress in the early 1900s. The selection also represents an effort to spotlight stories about non-white characters – shows historically relegated to smaller venues – on the Public’s main stage. 

“The cool thing about that play is that the original story is based on Lynn Nottage’s mother. It touches upon this idea that sometimes these stories that we’re telling come from our own histories,” de Vasco said. 

“Of Heroes, Journeys and Dreams” will culminate with another modern retelling of a decades-old story. “Once Upon a Mattress” is a contemporary riff on the 1835 fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea. It’s touted by de Vasco as an accessible and comedic show that’s historically a favorite of musical theaters. 

The goal with these shows, de Vasco says, amounts to the universal aspirations of theater and the timeless ubiquity of our most familiar tales.

“As we talk about diversity, the focus is always on the difference,” she said. “Now what we’re doing is we’re going, ‘What are those stories that we feel can stand the test of time because they unite us?”

Follow the Public Theater of San Antonio on its social media platforms for information about dates and ticket prices. 


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