Announces Its 20th Season:
1996 Drama Critics’ Circle Award Winner
by Brian Friel
Directed by Jonathan Silverstein
“Molly Sweeney is an astonishing work...A deeply moving meditation on hope, change and despair” -- The New York Times
Limited Engagement Begins October 8th
The NY Premiere of
Blues for an Alabama Sky
by Pearl Cleage
Directed by LA Williams
“Cleage writes with amazing grace and killer instinct.” - New York Times
Limited Engagement Begins February 4th
Today Keen Company Artistic Director Jonathan Silverstein announced his plans for the upcoming season, Keen’s 20th: “In 2000 Keen was born with a belief that there was a place for theatre that was generous in spirit and provoked identification. Twenty years later I am proud to say the dream Carl Forsman began is still relevant and necessary. This year we will mark our 20th Season by producing two plays about the complications of chasing a dream, set in two very different times and places. In the fall we will produce a revival of Brian Friel’s gorgeous play Molly Sweeney, a story about a woman blind since infancy who is urged on by her husband and doctor to get an operation that will change her life forever. I have loved this play for many years; and in a time when we are all discussing the right of choice, Molly Sweeney is incredibly timely.
“In the spring, we will produce the New York premiere of Pearl Cleage’s Blues for an Alabama Sky, the story of five friends navigating changing and challenging times. The play asks modern questions about survival, aspiration, and women’s healthcare. Blues for An Alabama Sky has been popularly produced around the country for the past 25 years. I am thrilled to bring this play to New York, where it is set, for the very first time,” said Silverstein.
Performances for this limited Off-Broadway engagement of Molly Sweeney, directed by Keen Artistic Director Jonathan Silverstein, will begin Tuesday, October 8th, and continue through November 16th only, with opening night set for Wednesday October 23rd. Cast and design team to be announced later.
Having lost her sight at infancy, Molly Sweeney knows the world through touch, sound, taste, and smell. When her hopeful husband and ambitious doctor propose an operation to restore her sight, Molly and those around her begin to understand that things may not all be as they appear. Brian Friel, Ireland’s master storyteller (Dancing at Lughnasa, Faith Healer, Translations) creates a riveting contemporary drama about the unexpected consequences of a medical miracle. “Molly Sweeney is an astonishing work… A deeply moving meditation on hope, change and despair” declared The New York Times.
From one of Ireland’s best living playwrights, this striking piece of dramatic writing is a daring piece of theater. Keeping the play’s three characters on stage at all times to speak directly to the audience, Brian Friel presents three points of view to the same intriguing tale. Each of their voices interweaves, threading in and out with details, spinning a lush and sensate narrative, and carrying us effortlessly to an unexpected and poignant conclusion. Deceptively simple, yet richly multilayered—combining both an insightful story about the way we perceive our existence with an allegory for our times — Molly Sweeney is an Irish storyteller’s art to create an unforgettable theater piece, painting scenery and rousing emotions with nothing more than the simple purity of beautifully rendered words.
Writing in The New York Times, longtime critic Vincent Canby said “Brian Friel has been recognized as Ireland's greatest living playwright almost since the first production of Philadelphia, Here I Come! in Dublin in 1964. In succeeding years, he has dazzled us with plays that speak in a language of unequaled poetic beauty and intensity. Such dramas as Translations, Dancing at Lughnasa and Wonderful Tennessee, among others, have given him a privileged place in our theater.
Later this season, Keen will present the limited Off-Broadway engagement of Blues for an Alabama Sky beginning Tuesday February 4th. Performances will continue through Saturday March 14th only, with opening night set for Wednesday February 18th. Cast and design team will be announced shortly.
Keen is honored to bring this well-loved play to New York for the first time. Playwright Pearl Cleage (Flyin’ West and Oprah Book Club selection What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day) tells a strikingly timely story about four friends whose lives and passions collide when an innocent newcomer from Alabama arrives in Harlem during summer of 1930, as the promises of the Harlem Renaissance are being swept away by the Great Depression. Now, after captivating audiences around the world, Keen is proud to bring Blues for An Alabama Sky to New York for the first time since its premiere 25 years ago. The Guardian said Blues for An Alabama Sky is “a riveting picture of Harlem at a moment of historic transition.” Variety agreed, calling it “a compelling insight into personalities and prejudices”
“The story of Blues for An Alabama Sky arrived while I was driving with my husband, Zeke, through rural Alabama one cool, clear night when the stars were so thick I hung my head out the window like a dog so I could take it all in. For weeks after we got back to Atlanta, I couldn't stop wondering what it would be like to leave those stars behind and have to settle for the artificial lights of the big city. Now, 25 years later, Angel and Doc and Guy and Leland and Delia will finally have a chance to walk around Manhattan and see how they like it. It is an honor for me to have this play make it's New York debut as part of the Keen Company's 20th Season and to have these characters come to life here under the direction of LA Williams who loves them almost as much as I do. Almost,” said Cleage
Pearl Cleage, an award-winning playwright, bestselling novelist, published poet and popular newspaper columnist, has earned praise from critics and from her peers for her passionate writing across several genres. An incredibly multifaceted talent, Cleage offers a fresh perspective on the universal themes of cultural enrichment, social identity and the power of love. With the rhythms of Black life as her muse, she focuses on the experiences of love, sex and female empowerment that she sees as vital to the African American community. As The New York Times said “Cleage writes with amazing grace and killer instinct.” Cleage has a way with both character and language. Widely regarded for her collection of plays, her play Flyin’ West was the most produced new play in the country in 1994 and has enjoyed multiple productions every year following its world premiere. She is also the author of many best-selling books, including What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day, Seen It All and Done the Rest and Just Wanna Testify. Most recently, Cleage published her memoir, Things I Should Have Told My Daughter: Lies Lessons and Love Affairs, giving readers an insight into her world and personal journey. An important advocate for women, Pearl’s work speaks to women from all walks of life. Her poem, “We Speak Your Names,” co-authored with husband, Zaron W. Burnett, Jr., provided the centerpiece of Oprah Winfrey’s Legends Weekend honoring 25 extraordinary African American women. Cleage’s 1990 collection of essays and performance pieces Mad at Miles: A Black Woman’s Guide to Truth, is a classic among those working to end violence against women. Mad at Miles has been adapted for the stage and is frequently performed around the country.
Keen Company creates theater that provokes identification, reflection, and emotional connection. In intimate productions of plays and musicals, we tell wholehearted stories about people striving to do their best and the decisive moments that change us. Keen has been honored with eleven Drama Desk nominations, two Drama Desk Awards, two Drama League nominations, and two Obie Awards.
All performances will be at Theatre Row (410 West 42nd Street, between 9th and 10th Avenues) and will be Tuesday through Thursday evenings at 7pm; Fridays at 8pm; Saturdays at 2pm & 8pm; and Sunday matinees at 3pm. All tickets will be $65 with premium tickets available for $80. (All ticket prices include restoration fees.)
A subscription package for both shows of the season is only $100 which includes unlimited exchange privileges, invitations to Keen Company readings, and admission to Keen Teens Festival of New Work! Save over 35% off full ticket price (a $160.00 value). Subscribers also get free invitations to Keen’s Play Club discussion series, discounts on the purchase of Keen’s cast recordings of Keen’s productions of Marry Me a Little and John & Jen, as well as advance notice and discounted tickets to The Playwrights Lab Series, and Keen Company’s Annual Gala.
Keen patrons 30 or under see both shows for just $25 each with a KEENConnect Subscription at only $50. That's all the perks of a regular subscription for the price of a rush ticket! Save over 65% off the full ticket price! (Please note, government issued ID must be presented at the box office).
Subscriptions are on sale NOW! Please visit keencompany.org/subscribe for more info.
Single tickets to Molly Sweeney and Blues for an Alabama Sky will go on sale Monday August 19th. To purchase single tickets, visit the Theatre Row Box Office (410 West 42nd Street, between 9th and 10th Avenues), order online at Telecharge.com, or order by phone at 212-239-6200.