A classic farce, a look at the first Black-owned pro basketball team, a prequel to ‘Peter Pan,’ a celebration of a country music queen and a world premiere by a favorite Philly playwright will make up the Delaware Theater Co.’s 2023-24 season.
The plays include:
- “Noises Off!” by Michael Frayn, Sept. 20-Oct. 8. The Tony Award-winning play is a backstage farce that’s full of slamming doors, surprises and laughs.
- “Kings of Harlem” by Layon Gray. Oct. 25-Nov. 12. It’s the 100th anniversary of the team, which won more than 2,000 games, from the writer/director of last year’s “Black Angels Over Tuskegee.”
- “Peter and the Starcatcher,” a show that DTC has wanted to stage for a long time, Dec. 6-24. By Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, it covers the years in which Peter Pan became Peter Pan, with a dozen actors playing more than 100 characters.
- “Always…Patsy Cline” created by Ted Swindley, Feb. 21-March 10. The show includes 30 hits from the star whose life was cut short.
- “The Flatlanders” by Bruce Graham, April. 17-May 5. A Poconos blizzard causes trouble for a couple stuck in a cabin that belongs to total strangers.
Several of the choices are designed to appeal to a non-traditional classic theater audience. Many people would prefer something that relates directly to their lives in some way, said Matt Silva, executive director.
He uses music as one way to appeal to some of them.
This year, it’s “Always … Patsy Cline,” a jukebox show that uses 30 of the country music star’s hits.
This is the show’s 30th anniversary year. At one time, it played for two years in Nashville before moving to Off-Broadway for a while.
Silva believes plays like that and this season’s “Here You Come Again,” which set Dolly Parton’s music amid the struggles of the pandemic, bring people to the theater so they can relive the soundtracks of their lives.
The show continues Delaware Theater Co.’s running theme of having instruments played on stage.
“You can watch it all happen right in front of you, without hiding any of the mechanisms,” he said. “It’s theater, it’s a musical, but the music is just so well-known and so beloved that it calls out to people.”
Silva, who is busy directing this season’s last show, “Man of La Mancha,” wanted to kick the next season off with something that was fun and had good name recognition. It will be the first season that the theater will be under his direction, after taking over this year from longtime director But Martin.
Season starts with name recognition
Silva hopes traditional theatergoers recognize a name like “Noises Off!” and want to see it.
Described as “the funniest farce ever written,” “Noises Off!” follows a group of actors in a flop of a show.
“It’s tried and true,” Silva said. “It’s an opportunity to celebrate the kickoff of the season. And, hopefully, then people will walk out feeling really good about being in the building and seeing what else we’ve got up our sleeve for the season.”
He’s excited to see what the producers have done with “Kings of Harlem.” The show will open right at the team’s 100th anniversary.
Silva was impressed with Layon Gray and his team while they were in town for their “Black Angels Over Tuskegee” show this season.
“Layon and his team … really entrenched themselves within our community here in Wilmington have continued to develop relationships since they’ve left,” he said.
The show is one of the few that Delaware Theater Company has brought in as a whole. It’s a way to stretch production budgets while ensuring diversity, he said.
“The play is actually really cool, but it’s also set on a basketball court. So there’ll be a basketball court on our stage,” he said. And there’s really cool abstracted basketball choreography along with a really strong story, and a real opportunity to deepen the connections that Leon and his team created here last year.”
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“Peter and the Starcatcher” will be the theater’s fun holiday show.
“We sort of found out last year, as lots of people did, that there’s so much competition for holiday fare,” Silva said. “People are looking for something that’s fun for the whole family.”
“It’s really inventive,” Silva said.
The theater will end its next season with “The Flatlanders,” by Philadelphia playwright Bruce Graham. DTC has produced several of his plays, including “Sanctions” and “The Outgoing Tide.”
“Flatlanders” will be a world premiere produced in concert with 1812, a Philly theater. The theaters will share costs.
These kinds of financial arrangements are helping keep the arts alive, Silva said.
“Everything’s up. The cost of labor is up. The cost of materials is up,” Silva said. “So being able to share some costs with other theaters is a new model that is very important and one that we’re going to be looking to do some more as well, because we don’t want to abandon the new work. It’s just that we need to come up with new ways of doing it.”
“Flatlanders” isn’t yet a recognizable play like “Noises Off!” and that means theatergoers wouldn’t see the name on a billboard and say, “Oh, I love that. I know what it is. And then go buy tickets,” Silva said.
The story follows a man and woman in their late 40s heading into the Poconos for their wedding rehearsal dinner. They’ve been together for ages and finally decided to get married.
Along the way, though, they lose control of their car in a snowstorm, drive off the road and break into a posh house, where they end up examining their lives and relationships.
Season tickets already are on sale at the theater office. Call 302-594-1100 or go to delawaretheatre.org.
Individual show tickets will go on sale in July.
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience, including 15 at The News Journal in Delaware.
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