For its fifteenth anniversary season, Palm Beach Dramaworks in West Palm Beach continues its quest for thought-provoking theater by staging shows that question, surprise, challenge and delight. We spoke with Producing Artistic Director William Hayes (right) about what audiences can expect.
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PBI: Is there a specific theme to this season?
Hayes: We’re consciously trying to have a diversified season with various themes. We tend to open up with a classic play by a classic author—one that is a widely known title but also not overly produced. And, being our fifteenth anniversary season, we needed to do what I regard as the greatest play of all time, and that is Thornton Wilder’s Our Town (to November 9). In looking at this as much as an event as a production, I’m reuniting key players: 95 percent of the cast is all local actors who have helped build Dramaworks.
Estelle Parsons will star in your second production, My Old Lady (December 5 to January 4). What can audiences expect?
She will be gracing our stage at the age of 87, and she still stars in a Broadway show every year. She’s got more energy than anybody I know. … Also, playwright Israel Horovitz is revising his script for our production, so there’s going to be a lot of energy around this.
What’s in store for the latter half of the season?
We go to some despicable people in Les Liaisons Dangereuses (January 30 to March 1). We’re really going all out on that production, and there’s an abundance of challenges. A big thing that’s really going to wow people is the elaborate costumes. You’ve got to go big—there’s no cutting corners—and [the setting is] eighteenth-century, upper-crust French, and that’s not easy to accomplish in this environment.
Why did you decide to mount Sam Shephard’s Buried Child (March 27 to April 26)?
We used to have a small studio space, and Buried Child was one that I talked about doing for a long time, just to explore some of the work of Sam Shephard. [The play] is his best work; some of the others feel a little dated. But we needed space to pull it off, which can’t be done effectively in the studio setting. I’ve been waiting for the right time to produce it.
Why did you decide to include your final show, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill (May 15 to June 14)?
We’ve tried very hard throughout the last several seasons to have shows for African-American actors, that speak to those themes and to that community. Lady Day takes place near the tail end of [Billie Holiday’s] life and, again, deals with racism, the difficulties of somebody emerging as a superstar, that kind of environment and climate and the emotional toll it can take on a human being.