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

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 for more details and ticket info.

“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

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

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

PlayMakers Has “Trouble In Mind”

It’s been described as “one of the best plays about racism ever written” – and it’s coming to Chapel Hill beginning this weekend.

The play is “Trouble in Mind,” and it opens on Saturday, January 24, at PlayMakers Repertory Company.

Written in 1955 by Alice Childress, “Trouble” is a comic drama set behind the scenes of a racially integrated Broadway play – in which the lead actress, an African-American, must make a choice between giving up her values or giving up the role of a lifetime.

Childress herself faced a similar choice: “Trouble in Mind” was set to become the first play written by an African-American woman to be staged on Broadway, but Childress refused to rewrite the ending as her producers demanded. (It did run Off-Broadway in 1955.) In addition to writing “Trouble,” Childress was also a Tony-nominated actress, a member of Harlem’s American Negro Theater, and one of the first African-American women to direct a show Off-Broadway.

Kathryn Hunter-Williams plays Wiletta Mayer, the lead actress. (She also played Cassandra in PlayMakers’ production of “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” earlier this season, among many other PlayMakers credits.) Tony-winning Broadway actor Roger Robinson appears as Sheldon Forrester.

Kathryn Hunter-Williams spoke to WCHL’s Aaron Keck earlier this week.


Previews of “Trouble in Mind” began Wednesday. Opening night is Saturday, January 24, with curtain at 7:30. The play runs through February 8, with shows at 7:30 Tuesdays through Saturdays and at 2:00 Sundays. For more information and to purchase tickets, call (919) 962-PLAY or visit

PlayMakers Opens Season: Chekov, With A Twist

Head to PlayMakers Repertory Company this month and catch the opening play of its 2014-15 mainstage season: “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” a Tony-winning comedy by Christopher Durang.

Inspired by the Russian playwright Anton Chekov, “Vanya” won the Tony for best play in 2013. PlayMakers’ production is directed by Libby Appel – who has not only directed all of Chekov’s plays in the past, but also translated five of his plays into English.

Julie Fishell – last seen at PlayMakers as Sara Jane Moore in “Assassins” – plays Masha. Fishell spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck earlier this week.

Previews began Wednesday. Opening night is Saturday, September 20, and the play runs through October 5. For showtimes and tickets, visit

“Hairspray” Arrives At PlayMakers

Good morning, Baltimore!

PlayMakers Repertory Company’s Summer Youth Conservatory is staging the hit musical “Hairspray” this weekend at the Paul Green Theare in the Center for Dramatic Art on Country Club Road.

A story of inclusivity set in 1962 Baltimore, “Hairspray” is the story of plus-size teen Tracy Turnblad and her push to get recognized as a dancer on the “Corny Collins Show” – while joining the fight for racial integration.

Watch a trailer for the show.

The Summer Youth Conservatory brings area high schoolers together each year for an intensive five-week training program. “Hairspray” marks the culmination of this year’s conservatory.

Director Desdemona Chiang, choreographer Matt Steffens, and actors Sadie Frank and Daniel Johnson (both rising high school seniors) joined Aaron Keck on WCHL to discuss the show.

“Hairspray” opened on Wednesday and runs through Sunday, with shows at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and 2:00 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $10-15; you can purchase them either by calling 919-962-PLAY, by visiting the PlayMakers box office, or online at

Summer Youth Conservatory To Perform “Sweeney Todd”

CHAPEL HILL – PlayMakers’ Summer Youth Conservatory will perform “Sweeney Todd” this Wednesday through Sunday at the Center for Dramatic Art at UNC.

The Summer Youth Conservatory consists of current high school students and recent high school graduates, giving them the chance to learn more from a professional aspect.

Student Emma Beck works on the play from the technical side and comments on her experience working with professionals in the Summer Youth Conservatory.

“Being there are so many people helping us, so many professional adults that we get so much one on one attention and we are able to learn so much more than we are in high school,” says Beck.

The program allows for high school students to gain experience working in a professional theatre environment and perform difficult shows like “Sweeney Todd.”

Director of the performance and artistic director of Cape Fear regional theatre in Fayetteville, Tom Quaintance, has worked with the SYC for four years and says he was astounded at the level of work the students were doing.

“I came up and I got to see You’re in Town and I saw that the program had grown to the point and the students were so talented, the training they had received, they absolutely can do Sweeney Todd, so we picked Sweeney Todd,” says Quaintance.

Quaintance says he had previously never expected to work with high school students on such a difficult performance, but after last years performance he thought they were ready.

“Really exciting play to be working on with students, it was something I never though I would want to do with students because it is one of the most challenging musicals ever, I’ve always loved it” Quaintance says.

The program began June 17, giving the students only one month to prepare for opening night.  Quaintance says the level of work and commitment that the students put into this performance is unlike most high schools.

Star of last year’s “Urinetown,” Adrian Thornburg, again plays a spotlight role in this years “Sweeney Todd.”  As an experienced member of SYC and star actor, Thornburg comments on his idea of this year’s performance.

“Well I’m playing Sweeney Todd and this has really been a very special experience, I really do think that this is easily the greatest show I’ve been apart of, both just on the merits of the show and on the merits of what we’ve put together,” says Thornburg.

For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.