Michael Kahn Announces His Final Season as Artistic Director of Shakespeare Theatre Company

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At a presentation in Lansburgh Theatre Wednesday morning, Michael Kahn announced Shakespeare Theatre Company’s 2018-2019 Season. With two world premieres from celebrated playwrights, a multiple Tony Award-winning presentation, a dynamic adaptation of a classic novel, two Shakespeare plays and a group of acclaimed directors and artists, it is an ambitious grand finale for STC Artistic Director Michael Kahn, who will retire from the company at the end of the season.

Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Artistic Director Michael Kahn. Photo courtesy of Shakespeare Theatre Company.

“It has been quite a journey since I took over as Artistic Director in 1986. I wanted this season to be a celebration of the past 32 years and I dedicate it to everyone who has been instrumental in the theatre’s development,” said Kahn. “I look forward to welcoming both familiar and new faces as we work together to continue STC’s commitment to create, preserve and promote classical theatre.”

The season opens with Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors. Directed by Alan Paul (Kiss Me, Kate), the Bard’s madcap world will be brought to life in all its antic, anarchic glory. Audiences will delight in the confusion over two sets of twins with the same name in a place where everyone is pretty sure that everyone else is completely insane.

After captivating audiences for over 25 years, the National Theatre’s award-winning production of J.B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls will arrive at STC in the fall. The winner of 19 major accolades, including multiple Tony, Olivier and Drama Desk Awards, Stephen Daldry’s (The Crown, Billy Elliot) production is considered to be the most lauded and legendary production of the modern British stage. Audiences will be transported to the eerie home of the Birlings, a well-heeled British family. As they enjoy a festive evening the celebrations are suddenly punctured by a mysterious visitor: a grim inspector investigating the death of a young woman. As questions multiply and guilt mounts, the Birlings’ entanglement in the affair shatters the foundations of their comfortable lives. Existing simultaneously in 1912, post-war society and modern day, Daldry’s spectacular production is both a plea for a more just society and a warning of what’s to come if we fail to attain it.

Following the success of The Liar, The Metromaniacs, The Heir Apparent, and last season’s The School for Lies, David Ives will reunite once more with Michael Kahn to stage another magical “translaptation” (part translation, part adaptation) world premiere. His play The Panties, The Partner, and The Profit: Scenes from the Heroic Life of the Middle Class found its inspiration in works by the 20th-century German satirist Carl Sternheim chronicling the rise of the Mask family from bare subsistence to vast riches

“It’s a great honor to be invited back to STC to collaborate with Michael on his final season. Michael and I have such fun collaborating, and he has a natural instinct on how to bring my words to life on stage,” says David Ives. “I look forward to working with him on this piece, which takes three full-length plays and condenses them into a single evening, moving early 20th-century German family life into America today with what I hope is comparable comic and satiric effect. Carl Sternheim was shouting from his era right into our collective ear.”

Following the success of last season’s King Charles III, David Muse returns to STC to direct Shakespeare’s Richard III. What does it look like when a man with no scruples stops at nothing to gain power? If you’re unsure, Richard of Gloucester will gladly demonstrate. What he lacks in looks he makes up for in bottomless ambition, ruthless cunning, and rapacious zeal: the crown, at all costs. As he climbs ever higher, Richard bends the world to his will until even his mother can’t bear to own him. Shakespeare’s mesmerizing chronicle of the megalomaniac’s rampage to the throne—one of his greatest variations on history—remains an irresistible study of villainy.

Last seen in D.C. in 2016 with her adaptation of Sense and Sensibility at the Folger Theatre, The Wall Street Journal’s Playwright of the Year (2017) Kate Hamill will make her debut at STC with her adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray’s classic novel Vanity Fair. Directed by Jessica Stone, this vibrant and colorful tale about society’s foibles is a bright dance hall pageant poking fun at all our pretenses. As the wily Becky Sharp and her gentle friend Amelia scale social ladders and hurdle the whims of fate, only one question matters: how do you get what you want in life?

Vanity Fair is a story about hypocrisy —about the lies we tell to ourselves and to others, and about the many winding paths we take to get what we want,” said Kate Hamill. “I’m so honored to have Vanity Fair included in Michael Kahn’s final season. This is one of the few stage adaptations that’s ever been done of Vanity Fair because it’s an epic novel, and it really requires a theatre that’s ready to take on a big bold story with sweeping themes. I know Shakespeare Theatre Company is that theatre, and I’m so proud to have Vanity Fair there”

Closing the season is the world premiere of The Oresteia. Directed by Michael Kahn and commissioned by STC, acclaimed playwright Ellen McLaughlin’s new version of Aeschylus’ masterpiece takes the audience through ten years of war, grief, and rage. As Queen Clytemnestra lies in wait for her husband Agamemnon’s return she is determined to avenge one child, only to doom the others. The sole surviving trilogy in Greek tragedy, The Oresteia chronicles a deluge of violence that can only be stopped when society peers into its own soul and sees the depths of its complicity. Her play weaves together the works of Aeschylus with stunning poetry and emotional heft. An epic interpretation of this pillar of western culture, The Oresteia makes a fitting end to Michael Kahn’s tenure as Artistic Director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company.

“I grew up in DC and have known and admired Michael since the beginning of my career, so working at STC has been a joy for me,” said Ellen McCoughlin “The theater is filled with smart, passionate people who have given their lives to this medium. The plays that make up the Oresteia trilogy are some the oldest we have, arguably the foundation of western culture; they are wonderful and mighty challenges to take on. I couldn’t be in better company on this journey.”

Shakespeare Theatre Company’s 2018-2019 Season:
The Comedy of Errors – William Shakespeare
An Inspector Calls – J.B. Priestley
The Panties, The Partner and The Profit: Scenes from
the Heroic Life of the Middle Class – David Ives
Richard III – William Shakespeare
Vanity Fair – Kate Hamill
The Oresteia – Ellen McLaughlin