Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival Announces the 2020 Season

Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival’s Producing Artistic Director Patrick Mulcahy announced today the 2020 summer season. Continuing his commitment to create world-class theatre in the Lehigh Valley, the Festival’s upcoming season will be another summer of first-rate professional productions by master dramatists. Mulcahy, now in his 17th year leading the Festival, has assembled a diverse and expansive season of classics including masterworks by William Shakespeare, Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning dramas, celebrated 20th-century icons, an epic limited engagement, and a group of acclaimed directors.

“Midsummer dreaming is in our nature at PSF. And in summer 2020, it will be a theme for the season and the heartbeat of the Festival,” says Mulcahy. “Whether it is young lovers pursuing freedom in the wilds, a prince seeking the leadership of a nation, a hardworking father chasing a deferred American Dream, aspiring Broadway dancers seeking that ‘singular sensation,’ a fever dream of war and remembrance, or young women in a bygone era dreaming of lives of their own choosing, PSF is the place this summer where the pursuit of dreams can refresh the spirit.”

Shakespeare remains at the heart of PSF’s programming. This summer, the Festival will produce two of Shakespeare’s masterworks including his most beloved comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the next chapter in the epic cycle, Henry IV, Part 2, continues the richly layered coming-of-age tale begun in King Richard II and Henry IV, Part 1 of previous seasons. Henry IV, Part 2, will be the 31st of Shakespeare’s 38 plays PSF will have produced.

The Festival’s 29th season will launch on the Main Stage with the Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning A Chorus Line. An icon of American musical theatre, this “singular sensation” came from the genius of choreographer Michael Bennett and the legendary composer Marvin Hamlisch. In a brilliant mix of song, dance, and compelling drama by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, A Chorus Line illuminates the ambitions of ensemble dancers in the final chorus audition for an upcoming Broadway show. One of the longest running Broadway musicals of all time, A Chorus Line boasts classic numbers such as “What I Did for Love,” and “One.”

The production will be under the helm of Associate Artistic Director Dennis Razze, who returns to the musical director’s chair following his highly lauded PSF productions of Ragtime (2018), Evita (2017), West Side Story (2016), and Les Misérables (2015).

“I’m very excited to direct A Chorus Line this summer for PSF. I recall seeing the touring company in 1977 when it came to the Fisher Theatre in Detroit when I was in graduate school. It was an amazing experience in so many ways—the innovative concept, the terrific score by Marvin Hamlisch, the brilliant lighting by the legendary Tharon Musser (which was the first time a musical had lighting controlled by a computer). But most of all the fantastic choreography by Michael Bennett, which placed him in that same stratosphere as Jerome Robbins and Bob Fosse,” says Razze. “A Chorus Line influenced so many Broadway shows that have followed in its footsteps, and it changed the landscape of the American musical forever. It showed that a musical with no stars, no elaborate scenery and costumes, and no traditional story line could become one of the greatest musicals ever, as well as a legendary success story.”

Next in the season line-up, the Schubert Theatre will open with August Wilson’s groundbreaking Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning drama Fences. An epic work of stunning poetry by a Pennsylvania native, Fences has been hailed by critics as “a blockbuster piece of theater” and “the strongest, most passionate American dramatic writing since Tennessee Williams.” Fences depicts the yearnings and struggles of the Maxson family led by their patriarch Troy, a former home run king of the Negro baseball leagues who now supports his family as a garbage man. Set in 1950s Pittsburgh against the backdrop of a rapidly changing America, Fences is a timeless American story of fathers and sons, husbands and wives, dreams and realities. 

The Festival is thrilled to welcome director and actor Christopher V. Edwards, who will make his PSF debut directing Fences. Edwards is the artistic director of the Actor’s Shakespeare Project in Boston. Prior, he was the artistic director of Nevada Conservatory Theatre in Las Vegas and he was the associate artistic director and a 14-year company member with the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival in New York, where he directed and acted in over 30 productions.

Playing in repertory on the Main Stage will be Shakespeare’s masterfully orchestrated comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In the Bard’s treasured comedy, the trickster Puck trips up the lovers as the king and queen of the fairies mingle with the clownish Athenian craftsman and his band of hapless players, yielding a magical night of moonlit merriment and revelry. Barrymore Award-winning director Matt Pfeiffer returns following his critically acclaimed PSF productions of Twelfth Night, As You Like It, and The Taming of the Shrew.

Hailed as “the region’s most reliable director of William Shakespeare,” Pfeiffer says, “This is some of Shakespeare’s best language and his most iconic characters. It’s a story about the irrationality of love. Love is inexplicable. It is the offspring of imagination, not reason. This play is a celebration of that. That irrational spirit inside all of us, that allows us to give over to love. The world is a pretty challenging place these days. It’s never felt more important to share love and light with each other.”

A Midsummer Night’s Dream will play in repertory with a fresh and funny adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. Through hopes and heartbreak, the Dashwood sisters discover the cruelties and unpredictability that can come with the search for true love, whether measured or impulsive. Jane Austen’s razor sharp wit shines in this new adaptation of her beloved classic from Olivier Award-winning writer Jessica Swale.

Following the success of last season’s Crazy for You and King Richard II in 2018, director and veteran Broadway actress Gina Lamparella will be at the helm of this production. Lamparella’s Broadway acting credits include The Phantom of the Opera, A Little Night Music, Fiddler on the Roof, and Les Misérables, among others. Her additional PSF directing credits include Beauty and the Beast, and the Linny Fowler WillPower Tours of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing, and Hamlet. She has also directed in New York and Florence, Italy.

Concluding the season in the Schubert Theatre is the next chapter in Shakespeare’s epic cycle, Henry IV, Part 2, continuing Shakespeare’s historical tetralogy on the rise of the royal House of Lancaster. In this chapter of the cycle, King Henry IV is in failing health with enemies threatening his kingdom, and Prince Hal must reconcile the public and private life as the mantle of kingship passes from father to son. Falstaff faces his duty with an eye to a future when Hal is king in Shakespeare’s dramatic tale of family, betrayal, and rebellion.

In the “Extreme Shakespeare” tradition, this production will be rehearsed akin to the way Shakespeare’s company would have—actors arrive with their lines learned, rehearse on their own, wear what they can find, and open in a matter of days. No director, no designers. Just great actors, a brilliant play, and pure adrenaline, spontaneity, and creativity.

New to the Festival this year, a limited engagement will pair a beloved PSF actor with an indelible work of literature in An Iliad, making its Lehigh Valley premiere starring PSF and Philadelphia veteran actor Greg Wood. In a modern-day retelling of Homer’s classic, a lone storyteller and a live musician deliver a visceral and brilliantly refreshing recollection of heroes, Greek gods, and humanity’s attraction to destruction and chaos. Obie Award–winning director Lisa Peterson and Tony Award–winning actor Denis O’Hare skillfully adapted Robert Fagles’ lauded translation of Homer’s The Iliad into a captivating solo performance piece. In a dynamic theatrical event, Wood returns to PSF in a virtuosic turn to weave a powerful, poetic, and epic tale that captures both the heroism and horror of war.

The 29th season begins at the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts with A Chorus Line on the Main Stage, with previews on June 10 and June 11, and opening night on June 12. The official opening in the Schubert Theatre begins with Fences which will preview on June 18 and June 19, and opens on June 20. The season will run through August 2.

The Festival’s 2020 Season Sponsor is The Rider-Pool Foundation.

Tickets for the 2020 season will go on sale in November 2019 for renewing subscribers. Single tickets, new subscriptions, and package sales will begin in early February.

For updates and casting announcements visit pashakespeare.org or for general questions call the PSF box office at 610.282.WILL [9455].

The professional Equity theatre company at DeSales University, PSF features acclaimed actors from Broadway, television, and film, winners and nominees of the Tony, Obie, Drama Desk, and other major theatre awards, from New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and around the country.

About Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival

Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, under the leadership of Producing Artistic Director Patrick Mulcahy, is the only professional Equity theatre of its scope and scale within a 50-mile radius. PSF is one of only a handful of theatres on the continent producing Shakespeare, musicals, classics, and contemporary plays, all of which can all be seen in rep and in multiple spaces within a few visits in a single summer season. Similarly, PSF was among just a handful of theatres on the continent in recent summers to produce three Shakespeare plays in a single summer season.  A patron would have to travel seven to nine hours from PSF to find a comparable range of offerings at a single theatre within a few weeks’ time.

The Festival’s award-winning company of many world-class artists includes Broadway, film, and television veterans, and winners and nominees of the Tony, Emmy, Obie, Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk, Jefferson, Hayes, Lortel, and Barrymore awards. A leading Shakespeare theatre with a national reputation for excellence, PSF has received coverage in The Washington Post, NPR, American Theatre Magazine, Playbill.com, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and in recent seasons The New York Times has identified PSF as one of the leading summer theatre festivals in the nation. “A world-class theater experience on a par with the top Bard fests,” is how one New York Drama Desk reviewer characterized PSF.

Founded in 1992 and the Official Shakespeare Festival of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, PSF’s mission is to enrich, inspire, engage, and entertain the widest possible audience through first-rate productions of classical and contemporary plays, with a core commitment to Shakespeare and other master dramatists, and through an array of education and mentorship programs. A not-for-profit theatre, PSF receives significant support from its host, DeSales University, from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts. With 150 performances of seven productions, the Festival attracts patrons each summer from 30+ states. In 28 years, PSF has offered 175 total productions (74 Shakespeare), and entertained 900,000+ patrons from 50 states, now averaging 34,000-40,000 in attendance each summer season, plus another 13,000 students each year through its WillPower Tour. PSF is a multi-year recipient of awards from the National Endowment for the Arts: Shakespeare in American Communities, and is a constituent of Theatre Communications Group, the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, and the Shakespeare Theatre Association. In 2013, leaders of the world’s premier Shakespeare theatres gathered at PSF as the Festival hosted the international STA Conference.

The Festival’s vision is for world-class work.

PATRICK MULCAHY (Producing Artistic Director, PSF) Since assuming leadership in 2003, Mulcahy has led PSF’s surge in artistic excellence, financial stability, and national recognition. Accomplishments include first-ever grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, attracting a multitude of award-winning artists including winners and nominees of the Tony, Obie, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Barrymore, and Emmy awards, a doubling of annual attendance, a successful campaign to double the Festival’s endowment, and the expansion of the number of Actors’ Equity contracts per season. He led the strategic planning process that led to PSF’s Vision 2030, a commitment to world-class professional theatre, and coverage in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and The Washington Post. As a professional director, actor, and fight director, credits include Broadway, Off-Broadway, regional theatre, television and radio. Mr. Mulcahy has acted with many industry luminaries including Don Cheadle, Angela Bassett, Cynthia Nixon, and Tony Shaloub at the New York Shakespeare Festival, The Roundabout Theatre, Hartford Stage, Great Lakes Theatre Festival, and the Walnut Street Theatre.  He served as fight director for A Few Good Men on Broadway, and multiple Off-Broadway productions starring Marcia Gay Harden, John Mahoney, Patrick Dempsey, and John Savage.  He directed Oscar nominee Vera Farmiga in The Real Thing, and, for PSF, directed The Winter’s Tale, Henry IV, Part 1, The Tempest, Antony and Cleopatra, Hamlet, Macbeth, Julius Caesar, and Shakespeare in Love. Also Head of Acting at DeSales, Patrick holds degrees in acting and directing from Syracuse University.