“Three Sisters” Arrive At PlayMakers, Say They’ll Reach Moscow Soon

It’s one of the most iconic plays of all time, and a new version of it is coming to Chapel Hill.

PlayMakers Repertory Company is staging Anton Chekhov’s “Three Sisters,” newly translated by Libby Appel, beginning Wednesday, January 20, and running through Sunday, February 7. The show will be directed by Vivienne Benesch, who recently took over from Joseph Haj as PlayMakers’ new producing artistic director.

“Three Sisters” is the story of Olga, Masha and Irina, sisters living in a provincial Russian town who yearn to move to Moscow but never quite seem to make it there. Benesch actually agreed to direct it even before she knew she’d be taking over as artistic director. “Life and art sometimes play the very best tricks on us,” she says. “I cannot think of a more perfect work to engage in at this moment than Chekhov’s vibrant meditation on the nature of time, love and our unexpected journey through life.”

Vivienne Benesch spoke with Aaron Keck on WCHL.


For a full schedule, information about related special events, and a link to purchase tickets, visit PlayMakersRep.org.


“Highway 47″ Brings Family Drama To PlayMakers

It’s a family drama saga that’s half a century in the making, with roots going back almost 300 years.

Not quite your typical visit home for the holidays.

PlayMakers Repertory Company‘s PRC² series continues this month with “Highway 47,” a one-woman show written and performed by KJ Sanchez. Sanchez is the founding CEO of American Records and a voice actor who’s appeared on “Dora the Explorer” – but for this piece, she dug into her fascinating family history.

“Highway 47″ is about a family dispute, but that’s only the beginning – or, more accurately, the end. It’s a story that began in 1734, when settlers were granted land in New Mexico. (You may have seen some of that land yourself: all the middle-of-the-desert scenes from “Breaking Bad” were filmed there.) More than two centuries later, with all the descendants of those settlers still holding the deeds, a legal dispute broke out (with Sanchez’s father at the center) that tore families apart and lasted nearly 50 years.

After the dust finally settled, Sanchez set out to write the story. Interviewing major players on all sides (including people who’d been her family’s enemies for decades), she pieced together a play that explores the conflict while also examining her own relationship with her father.

“My mother asked me not to tell you this story until she was dead,” she says in the play.

WCHL’s Aaron Keck spoke with KJ Sanchez.


“Highway 47″ runs at PlayMakers from Wednesday, January 6, through Sunday, January 10. Shows are 7:30 pm every night in PlayMakers’ Elizabeth Price Kenan Theatre, with an additional matinee show at 2 pm Sunday.

Visit PlayMakersRep.org for tickets.


“Peter And The Starcatcher” Opens At PlayMakers

It really is true: the Peter Pan story never gets old.

This month, the curtain goes up on “Peter and the Starcatcher” at PlayMakers Repertory Company in Chapel Hill. Based on a novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, “Peter” is a family-friendly “grownup’s prequel” to James Barrie’s classic story about a wondrous journey, a fantastic land, pirates, magic, and eternal youth.

“Peter and the Starcatcher” won five Tony Awards in 2012. PlayMakers’ production features a cast of a dozen actors portraying more than 100 characters. Broadway vet Mitchell Jarvis appears as the pirate Black Stache, and North Carolina native Evan Johnson will play Peter. (He also played the role Off-Broadway.)

PlayMakers vet Brendon Fox is directing the show. He spoke this week with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.


“Peter and the Starcatcher” opens on Wednesday, November 18, and runs through Saturday, December 12.

Visit PlayMakersRep.org/PeterAndTheStarcatcher for more details, including showtimes, ticket information, and a schedule of related special events.


Master Class: “Seminar” At PlayMakers

It’s a play about four young writers who sign up for a master class taught by a legendary novelist, as performed by four young actors who are currently studying under the man playing the writer. Hold on to your hats.

PlayMakers Repertory Company‘s 2015-16 mainstage season continues with “Seminar,” an acclaimed 2011 comedy by Theresa Rebeck. (Rebeck is the creator of the NBC show “Smash” and a former writer/producer for “NYPD Blue” and “Law and Order,” among many other credits; her plays have been compared favorably with Neil Simon’s.) It stars PlayMakers vet Ray Dooley as the aforementioned legendary novelist; Dooley is also the head of UNC’s Professional Actor Training Program, so he’s very familiar with the mentor role. (Though he says he doesn’t perform it in quite the same way as his character.)

The show opens on Wednesday, October 14, and runs through November 1 in the Paul Green Theatre on Country Club Road. It’s directed by Michael Dove, a Helen Hayes Award winner who serves as artistic director at the Forum Theatre in Washington, DC.

Ray Dooley spoke about “Seminar” with WCHL’s Aaron Keck this week.


For ticket information and a schedule of related special events, visit this page on PlayMakersRep.org.


PlayMakers Opens Mainstage Season With “Disgraced”

Theater season has begun in Chapel Hill!

PlayMakers Repertory Company kicks off its mainstage season on Wednesday with “Disgraced,” a Pulitzer-winning comedy-drama by Ayad Akhtar about an upwardly mobile Pakistani-American lawyer who finds himself confronted with his Muslim heritage. “Disgraced” won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013; it’s also won an Obie Award and a Tony nomination.

Shishir Kurup is directing PlayMakers’ production at the invite of former artistic director Joseph Haj. A member of Los Angeles’ Cornerstone Theatre Company, Kurup is a veteran of numerous films and TV shows and he’s performed and directed at theaters across the country, from New York to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Describing the play as a “roller coaster,” Kurup says it’s particularly timely for Chapel Hill, in the wake of the recent murders of three Muslim students earlier this year. Theater, he says – and especially comedy – offers a way for people and communities to confront deep-seated and difficult issues they otherwise might not be willing to engage.

Shishir Kurup spoke on Monday with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.


The show runs through Sunday, October 4, with special events scheduled throughout the run. Visit PlayMakersRep.org for more details and ticket info.


“Uncle Ho To Uncle Sam” Kicks Off PlayMakers Season

This week, PlayMakers Repertory Company kicks off its 2015-16 PRC2 season with an autobiographical one-man play, “Uncle Ho to Uncle Sam,” about one man’s journey from Vietnam to America.

Trieu Tran in "Uncle Ho to Uncle Sam." Courtesy of Center Theatre Group. Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Trieu Tran in “Uncle Ho to Uncle Sam.” Courtesy of Center Theatre Group. Photo by Craig Schwartz.

The man is Trieu Tran. Born in Vietnam just days before the fall of Saigon, he and his family eventually made their way to the U.S. by way of Thailand and Canada. “Uncle Ho” is his story, co-written with Robert Egan; Tran has performed the show (with Egan as director) for several years at theaters across the country.

Trieu Tran joined Aaron Keck on WCHL Tuesday.


“Uncle Ho to Uncle Sam” opens on Wednesday, August 26 and runs through Sunday, August 30, with shows at 7:30 pm nightly and 2:00 pm on Sunday. Visit PlayMakersRep.org for more details and to purchase tickets.


“Guys And Dolls” Rolls Into PlayMakers

Sit down, you’re rocking the boat!

PlayMakers Repertory Company hit the stage this week with their Summer Youth Conservatory show, “Guys and Dolls.”

Featuring a cast and crew of middle and high school students from 14 different Triangle-area schools, “Guys and Dolls” is one of Broadway’s most iconic shows, with songs like the classic “Luck Be A Lady” and some of the most memorable characters in theater history.

It’s the annual show of PlayMakers’ Summer Youth Conservatory – which offers students a chance to learn the craft with some of the most accomplished theater stars in the Triangle. This year’s show is directed by Jeffrey Meanza, PRC’s associate artistic director and a veteran of numerous PlayMakers shows.

Meanza spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.


“Guys and Dolls” opened on Wednesday and runs through Saturday, July 25. Get tickets and more info online at PlayMakersRep.org.


PlayMakers, Deep Dish Wrap Up Chapel Hill Theater Season

Chapel Hill’s 2014-15 theater season comes to an end this week as PlayMakers Repertory Company and Deep Dish Theater Company open their last shows.

At Deep Dish in University Mall, the last show of 2014-15 is “The Liar,” a classic French farce by Pierre Corneille translaptated by David Ives. (“Translaptated”? Master-of-wordplay Ives uses that word to describe his process – halfway between “translation” and “adaptation.”) Directed by Deep Dish artistic director Paul Frellick, “Liar” is about a French nobleman who’s a pathological liar, his pathologically honest servant, and the trouble they inevitably land themselves into. Deep Dish theatergoers will be familiar with Ives’ work: he’s the author (or translaptator) of two other plays previously staged by Deep Dish, “Polish Joke” and “Is He Dead?”.

Paul Frellick and actress Maryanne Henderson discuss “The Liar” with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.


For Deep Dish, “The Liar” marks not just the end of the season, but also the beginning of a transition: the theater company has been located at University Mall since its creation, but with changes ongoing at the mall, Frellick and the rest of the company are planning a move sometime around the end of 2015 (to a still-undetermined location). Frellick says the company will begin its 2015-16 season at its usual spot, though.

Meanwhile at PlayMakers Repertory Company, visiting director Cody Nickell brings “Mary’s Wedding” to the stage as part of the theater’s PRC2 series. “Mary’s Wedding” is an intimate play (two actors, three characters) by Stephen Massicotte – a “dream play” about young love in the midst of World War I. (This run of “Wedding” is part of UNC’s year-long commemoration of the 100th anniversary of WWI.) Nickell, a Chapel Hill native, has a close connection to the material: he played the male character Charlie in San Jose more than a decade ago, and he says the production brought him closer to his father – who flew from North Carolina all the way to San Jose, not once but twice, just to see it.

Cody Nickell spoke with Aaron Keck about “Mary’s Wedding.”


“The Liar” runs at Deep Dish from May 1-23; “Mary’s Wedding” runs at PlayMakers’ Kenan Theater from April 29-May 3.

Click here for tickets and other information about “The Liar.”

Click here for tickets and other information about “Mary’s Wedding.”

Pictured: Carey Cox. Photo by Andrea Akin.

Pictured: Carey Cox. Photo by Andrea Akin.


PlayMakers 15/16 Season Features “Sisters,” “Sweeney”

PlayMakers Repertory Company has announced its 2015/16 season, highlighted by a Sondheim favorite, a Chekhov classic, and a round-the-world theatrical journey.

The season will open in September with Ayad Akhtar’s “Disgraced,” about a Pakistani-American lawyer who’s abandoned his Muslim roots. From there, highlights include Stephen Sondheim’s diabolical (and beloved) musical “Sweeney Todd” and the world premiere of a new translation of Anton Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” – a play that PlayMakers skewered just this year in Christopher Durang’s “Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike.” Associate artistic director Jeffrey Meanza describes the season as a journey around the world – from London to Russia to Africa and beyond.

Jeffrey Meanza spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.

For the full season lineup, visit PlayMakersRep.org/1516.


PlayMakers Travels “4000 Miles”

It’s one of the most acclaimed plays of the last three years – and it’s coming to Chapel Hill this weekend.

PlayMakers Repertory Company wraps up its 2014/15 mainstage season with the regional premiere of Amy Herzog’s “4000 Miles,” an Obie Award-winning play about an elderly woman who makes an unexpected connection with her grandson after he comes for (what turns out to be) an extended stay. Herzog’s play has won many honors: on top of the Obie Award for Best New American Play, Time Magazine named it the best new play of 2012 (musicals included) and it was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Dee Maaske plays the grandmother in PlayMakers’ production. A longtime theater veteran, Maaske has spent 21 years with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and acted on three different continents. The director too is a special guest: Desdemona Chiang, a Seattle/San Francisco-based director whose work has appeared on stages nationwide. (Including PlayMakers: Chiang directed last year’s summer repertory production of “Hairspray.”)

Chiang spoke about the show with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.


“4000 Miles” opened for previews on Wednesday. Opening night proper is this Saturday, April 4, and the show runs through Sunday, April 19 with shows at 7:30 Tuesdays through Saturdays and 2:00 matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are available online at PlayMakersRep.org/4000Miles.