There’s a wealth of cutting-edge theater in Western North Carolina, but some of the most daring work to be seen on stage is on the campuses of local colleges. The Warren Wilson College Theater Department, under the guidance of Candace Taylor, is about to launch a new season under the heading, Not Suitable For Children.
“We gave our season a theme a few years ago and choose shows that fit within that theme,” says Taylor, who is entering her sixth year as department chair. “It worked out well, so we thought we would do it again. All of our plays this year are contemporary plays written by up-and-coming playwrights or very hot playwrights.”
The season kicks off Thursday, Oct. 8, with Lauren Gunderson’s Exit, Pursued By a Bear. The title takes its name from the peculiar line of direction written by Shakespeare in The Winter’s Tale (which was produced last year as a collaboration between Warren Wilson and the Montford Park Players). No other information was provided by The Bard, leaving the interpretation up to generations of directors’ imaginations. Gunderson’s play is a comedic take on a not-so-funny tale about the horrors of domestic violence, where the wife has duct-taped her abusive husband to a chair. She plans to act out all of his transgressions in front of him with the help of a local stripper and a gay friend.
“Crisis. Catharsis. Comedy.” That is the tag line for Warren Wilson’s season, and those three C’s are certainly on display in the catalog. Recent Broadway sensation The Motherf**ker With The Hat, by Stephen Aldy Guirgis, is on the list. Comedian Chris Rock made the show famous, partly for the attention-grabbing title on Broadway, but mainly for the fast-paced, foul-mouthed comedy about drugs and violence in the inner city.
The second semester of shows features the play Marisol, a tale of a young Puerto Rican woman who wakes to find a war among the angels in heaven has spilled over to the streets of her Bronx neighborhood. Humanity’s future hangs in the balance. Playwright Jose Rivera is from Puerto Rico and won numerous awards when the play was first produced in the mid-1990s.
Pulitzer Prize winner David Lindsay-Abaire rounds out the offerings. His play, Fuddy Mears, humorously tackles the subject of a woman with amnesia who finds herself taken hostage by a man who claims to be her husband. The title comes from the slurred speech of a character who has suffered a stroke and is trying to say “funny mirrors.” It will close out the season in April.
“In the past, we’ve done shows with an eye toward the age range of our audience, and we try to make sure to say whether this is suitable for children or not,” says Taylor. For this season, “we decided to do the whole ‘not suitable for children’ thing.” But young audiences and their parents shouldn’t despair. Taylor says her plan, going forward, is to include a children’s show each year.
“We’re doing more plays than we typically do in a season,” she says. “We usually do three plays, and this year we’re doing, basically, a play every eight weeks.”
That’s good news for the college’s up-and-coming theater professionals. “We can offer more opportunities to more students,” says Taylor. So, she jokes, “we’re going to see if we survive this.”
WHAT: Exit, Pursued By A Bear
WHERE: Kittredge Theatre, Warren Wilson College
WHEN: Thursday, Oct. 8, to Sunday, Oct. 11, Thursday-Saturday, at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, at 2:30 p.m. $10 general/students and faculty free with ID. Season info at avl.mx/1ry