Soho rep returns with employment initiative and new games

It’s been almost two years since Soho Rep put on a show at their 65-seat theater at 46 Walker Street. And Sarah Benson, artistic direct...


It’s been almost two years since Soho Rep put on a show at their 65-seat theater at 46 Walker Street. And Sarah Benson, artistic director of the theater since 2007, is incredulous.

“It’s crazy that it’s been so long,” said Benson, who runs the theater with artistic development and production director Meropi Peponides and executive director Cynthia Flowers.

But when performances return to the Lower Manhattan space for the company’s 46th season in September, it will be in parallel with the second year of a new initiative: Soho Rep Project Number One, a job creation program developed in response. to the pandemic which brings artists into the organization as salaried staff members with fringe benefits.

The inaugural class 2020-21 included eight artists, each of whom received a weekly salary of $ 1,250, a year of health insurance coverage, and a budget of $ 10,000 to create a new work in any format, which will be presented to an audience at the theater during the next season. The next phase of the project currently includes two artists for the 2021-22 season: director and screenwriter Abigail Jean-Baptiste and set designer Kimie Nishikawa.

“It’s an exciting time as we continue to evolve,” said Benson. “And we hope to expand it in the future.”

Soho Rep, a daring house for new plays, launched the careers of writers such as Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (“Gloria”, “An Octoroon”), Lucas Hnath (“A Doll’s House Part 2”, “Dana H. “) and Young Jean Lee (” Straight White Men “,” We’re Gonna Die “), while also providing a home for innovative designers and directors, many of whom participated in the theater’s writers / directors lab.

So it’s only fitting, Benson said, that the 2021-22 season begins with four weekends of free presentations of the work in progress being developed in this same lab, led by playwrights William Burke and Jackie Sibblies Drury. The productions, which will run from September 24 to October 17, include “Blush” (Keenan Hurley and Kedian Keohan), “A Map to Nowhere (things are)” (Nia Farrell and Talia Paulette Oliveras), “Speak American” (Kate Moore Heaney and Divya Mangwani) and “Bust” (Jeesun Choi and Bryn Herdrich).

They will be followed in November by the world premiere of “While You Partied”, a comedy by Peter Mills Weiss and Julia Mounsey starring actor and comedian Brian Fiddyment which explores toxic masculinity (November 3 to 28).

“I can’t remember the last time I was really terrified in a theater before this,” Benson said. “I got scared in a very strange and disturbing way, but quite a joyous one.”

Next up is the New York premiere of South Korean playwright Hansol Jung’s “Wolf Play,” which explores alienation and the meaning of family through the lens of queer parenting and adoption (February 2 until March 6, 2022). The play, which takes its name from an Internet adopted Korean boy who just wants to find his “wolf pack” and was originally scheduled to open in March 2020, is directed by Dustin Wills and presented in association with Ma-Yi Theater Company.

The program ends with the world premiere of the Puerto Rican playwright Omar Vélez Meléndez “Notes on Killing Seven Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Board Members” (May 17-June 19, 2022). Directed by David Mendizábal, one of eight artists in the inaugural Project Number One cohort, and produced in partnership with The Sol Project, the work is presented as a drag show that explores decolonization.

“I fell off my chair when I first read this article,” Benson said, “and it just kept evolving as they worked on it together.”

Soho Rep and the National Asian American Theater Company have also commissioned another inaugural artist from Project One, Shayok Misha Chowdhury, to complete her bilingual play “Public Obscenities”, in Bengali and English.

Benson said she hopes Soho Rep’s productions this season will respond to a time of theater transformation.

“I hope it’s not just like getting back into a hot tub,” she said. “I hope people will be excited to see the work that is unsettling and challenging, and to recognize the euphoria that comes with it.

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