CTC’s season all set to dazzle Chautauqua audience

NAME | Staff Photographer
Actress Audrey Corsa gestures to other actors. The show opens 2:15 p.m. Saturday in Bratton Theater.

And let us, ciphers to this great account,

On your imaginary forces work.

­—Henry V, Shakespeare

The credit for Chautauqua Theater Company’s theme this year, “Imagination,” goes to William Shakespeare.

“This season is particularly exciting to us because we are inviting our audiences to use their imaginations,” said Vivienne Benesch, artistic director of CTC. “The plays will compel the audience to engage with each production and not just be bystanders.”

CTC’s 32nd season boasts a Pulitzer Prize-winning play, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, and the first-ever Shakespeare history produced by the company.

Our Town opens the season Saturday, July 4. A Thornton Wilder classic, the play looks at the daily lives of Grover Corner’s citizens from 1901 to 1913, and will be directed by Paul Mullins, who previously directed CTC’s You Can’t Take It With You in 2010.

“The cycle of life is experienced in its totality within the two-and-a-half hours of Our Town,” Benesch said. “You experience birth, love, marriage and death.”

Managing Director Sarah Clare Corporandy’s seasonal excitement is not so much to do with the popularity of the texts, but more to do with what the Chautauqua audience is about to experience on the Bratton Theater stage.

“We have some exciting things planned on the design front this year,” she said.

Our Town will be performed on a traverse stage, wherein the audience will be seated on two sides of the performers, including on the stage itself.

“The idea of the play is more about the actors saying, ‘We are with you, not acting at you,’ ” Benesch said.

In addition to the opening classic, the season will also have Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel. Set in the Big Apple of 1905, the play tells the story of Esther, a seamstress. Benesch, who said this has been on her list for a long time now, is directing the play.

Shakespeare has been an important part of CTC’s seasons from the beginning. This is the first year that the company is producing a history, Henry V, which is also the inspiration behind the central theme of imagination.

It is also director Evan Cabnet’s CTC debut.

Corporandy said she believes in giving the audience a whole range of the theater world, hence it is important to include the works of the Bard. But, Corporandy said, CTC is looking at the possibility of changing in the future.

“We are having conversations about shifting away from Shakespeare,” Corporandy said.

Besides the three big productions, CTC will also produce The Engine of Our Ruin by Jason Wells and Afterlove by David West Read. Both of these plays were chosen from more than 150 submissions and are a part of the Signature Staged Readings under the company’s New Play Workshops.

“We are firing on all cylinders this year,” Benesch said. “We have added the Young Playwrights Project (See Page B1), a playwriting workshop for third-graders [as well as] Residency 9, which provides a different stage to a group of our alumni who have kept in touch.”

Corporandy said the season promises to be diverse and exciting this year and the audiences are in for a treat.

“I hope the audience becomes a part of our community for those two or three hours because there is no theater without the audience,” Corporandy said. “They are a very important part of what we do and we want them to leave happy.”