SAN ANTONIO — The music of Stephen Sondheim, Nina Simone and rowdy San Antonio punk group Fea will be featured at the Public Theater of San Antonio next season, which kicks off Sept. 9 with a historic production of "American Mariachi."
The show, created by Jose Cruz Gonzalez, will be the century-old organization's first produced by a Latino playwright. That's just one way the Public's 2022-'23 season, announced Monday afternoon, is looking to the future with its next slate of shows
"It was very important to me to signal to our patrons that we aren't trying to change everything by continuing to produce beloved musicals, but to also signal that programming will start to reflect the diversity of this city and new audiences we are trying to reach as well," said Claudia de Vasco, who is preparing to oversee her first full season as the Public's executive artistic director after her hiring last September.
De Vasco will make history as the first Latina to fill that role at the Public, while also serving as director of "American Mariachi," using her own experience with the show as a guide. The story centers on a character named Lucha's mission to create an all-women mariachi group while caring for her sick mother.
The musical angle resonates with San Antonio culture, but de Vasco said their decision to open the season with "American Mariachi" goes further—and deeper.
"(It) is an American story about family, love and determination, and it belongs on our stage just as much as other non-Latine stories do, for all San Antonians to experience," she said, adding that it also simply makes good business sense. "In a city that's majority Latine, it's a smart development move to provide relevant programming to the future audiences of San Antonio and their families."
Beyond "American Mariachi" (the upcoming production of which will mark its Texas premiere), there's a variety to the Public's next slate of shows that reflects de Vasco and her team's mission of balancing the classical with the contemporary.
Enduring stories like the dance-happy "Footloose" and the reverse-chronological friendship saga "Merrily We Roll Along" are on the schedule, as are newer, more inclusive shows "Fabulous Monsters" and "Nina Simone: Four Women," structured around a fictional conversation between the iconic singer and three other Black women as a way of exploring her activist roots.
Just as important in telling a broad spectrum of stories onstage for de Vasco was finding the artists best equipped to tell them. That includes hiring "an actor's director" familiar with the intricacy of Sondheim's lyrics for "Merrily We Go Along," and extends to her goal of gender parity when it came to writers and directors.
The lineup of guest directors is a blend of Texan and non-Texan voices, some of whom have previously directed theater in Los Angeles, Denver and New York City.
"Underscoring all these conversations with potential directors was also the desire to bring on directors who share cultural and artistic values and styles with me," de Vasco added. "Especially as I am working towards transforming the organization to be more on par with professional regional theater while improving the culture from within for historically excluded communities."
Ticket packages for the Public's 2022-'23 season are now available to buy online. The full schedule is as follows:
- "American Mariachi": Running Sept. 9 through Oct. 2 at the Russell Hill Rogers Theater, directed by de Vasco.
- "A Beautiful Day in November on the Greatest of the Great Lakes": Running Oct. 14 through Nov. 6 at Cellar Theater, directed by Allison Price.
- "A Christmas Carol: The Musical": Running Nov. 25 through Dec. 18 at the Russell Hill Rogers Theater, directed by Tim Hedgepeth.
- "Nina Simone: Four Women": Running Jan. 20, 2023 through Feb. 12 at the Russell Hill Rogers Theater, directed by Ann James.
- "Fabulous Monsters": Running Feb. 24, 2023 through March 19 at Cellar Theater, directed by Jerry Ruiz.
- "The Pajama Game": Running March 31, 2023 through April 23 at the Russell Hill Rogers Theater, directed by Diana Wyenn.
- "Footloose": Running June 9, 2023 through July 2 at the Russell Hill Rogers Theater, directed by Ken Urso.
- "Merrily We Roll Along": Running August 4, 2023 through August 27 at the Russell Hill Rogers Theater, directed by Alexandra Silber.
Meanwhile, two upcoming shows will close out the current season: "She Loves Me" opens May 20, while the musical "Once On This Island" is scheduled to premiere July 15.
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