Mystery and the untold secrets contained in common history form the thread in the Greensboro Arts Alliance and Residency 2019 Main Stage Summer Season, which kicks off July 25, with some of theater’s top talents.
“The plays were chosen in an interesting way,” said producing artistic director and founder Sabra Jones in a recent phone interview.
She’s directing the world premiere of “Miranda,” a new play by Bernard Pomerance, starring Tony Award nominee Marla Schaffel. It was the last play written by Pomerance, who wrote “The Elephant Man,” before he died in 2017.
“It’s a fascinating story, and we chose it because it not only dealt with Shakespeare, but with the history of America,” Jones said.
“Miranda,” a sequel to Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 26 and 27, and 3 p.m. Sunday, July 28, at the Highland Center for the Arts in Greensboro.
The play depicts “The Tempest’s” Prospero after he returns to Milan, and Miranda, his daughter, is now a grown woman. As Prospero writes his memoirs, he recalls his passage through the Americas and a shocking mystery is revealed and resolved.
“It is well known in Great Britain but hardly known at all in the United States that Shakespeare knew about America,” Jones said. “When I found this out I was mind-blown because I think of Shakespeare as very long ago, and somehow the history of America seems more recent.
“Shakespeare heard stories,” she continued, “about the ship which crashed off the coast of Virginia in the London Times, and decided he would write the play ‘The Tempest’ about it, because it fed his imagination wildly. Pomerance was obsessed with this and did a lot of research, and wrote a play which takes up from the point at which ‘The Tempest’ ends.
“It’s a potential masterpiece,” Jones added. “I really want people to come see it and to know what they think, because this is a brand-new play that we’re trying to get to New York.”
Jones is also directing Schaffel in “The Belle of Amherst” Thursday-Sunday, Aug. 8-11 at the Unadilla Festival Theatre in Marshfield. The one-woman play by William Luce was crafted from diary entries, letters and poems by Emily Dickinson.
“I don’t know that I have a directing style,” Jones said, and traced her ideas back to age 17, when she moved to New York and quickly fell in with the Actors Studio.
“I became infatuated with the actual skill of acting and writing a play and directing,” she said. “It became like a religious calling. It was no more about being famous or rich or any of that, it was acting for a sense of truth. So, when I direct I try to help actors find their own truthful response to the material, not their intellectual response.
“The other thing I try to do is direct for the action,” she added. “If a playwright is any good there is a clear action for every character in any given scene. If the actor is able to discern action, everything else will take care of itself.
“The rest of the season is very exciting,” Jones said. “The last thing we’re doing is a brand-new play called ‘Creation,’ which has never been heard by anybody. The author would like to have a public reading and hear opinions because it’s very challenging.”
Centered on historic meetings that were recorded between Albert Einstein and Dr. Wilhelm Reich, Jones said, “we’re trying to develop it, and this seemed the perfect place to do it.”
This play, by S.E. Endicott, traces their involvement, which ended before Einstein announced in the New York Times that he was “close” to finding the answer to his own mystery, the “unified field theory.”
The reading will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 13, at the Hardwick Townhouse.