Big Idea Theatre announces new artistic director, 2014 season

By From page B4 | October 09, 2013

Big Idea Theatre recently announced that  Artistic Director Brian Harrower will step down from his position at the end of the 2013. Big Idea’s current Marketing Director Benjamin T Ismail will succeed Harrower as A.D.

“I am beyond thrilled to be the new artistic director for Big Idea Theatre,” Ismail said. “This upcoming season is filled with heart, smarts and humor: three of my favorite things! Big Idea has been like family to me for the past several years and I believe so much in it and its artists. I can’t wait to see where we can go as a company when we explore the questions and ideas of this next season.”

Shannon Mahoney and Beth Edwards will remain in their positions as co-managing directors, and Big Idea Company member Jessica Berkey will succeed Ismail as Marketing Director. Harrower will remain an active company member.

Ismail was chosen as the new artistic director by vote of the Big Idea Theatre Company members and brings many years of theatrical experience in the Sacramento theatre community to his new position at Big Idea. Ismail has an extensive directing background of full-length plays, one-act, 10-minute plays and staged reading credits, most recently on stage at Big Idea Theatre (“As You Like It,” “Red Herring,” “Arcadia,” “The Underpants” and “Almost, Maine”), Resurrection Theatre (“Next Fall,” “An Adult Evening with Shel Silverstein” and “Macbeth: Resurrected”) and the celebrated staged reading of “August: Osage County” with Asclepius Productions, an American Cancer Society Benefit Event.

Big Idea Theatre operates in a slightly different manner than other theaters in the area, in that the artistic director is not selected by the Board of Directors, but rather by the active company members. Currently, Big Idea Company membership stands at 19 and consists of actors, directors, designers, stage managers and technical experts.

“The company is the core of what we do at Big Idea — without them, we could not function — and we are committed to keeping creative control of the theater fully vested in the company, not the board,” said Beth Edwards, chair of Big Idea Theatre’s Board of Directors.

Big Idea Theatre also announced its upcoming 2014 season: Unbound.

“The marvelous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome.” — Helen Keller

Mankind is endowed with one of the greatest gifts of the human experience: the desire to overcome the limits on our potential by any means necessary. When we succeed, it provides us with connection, purpose, joy and love. Even within cultures and ideologies that value submission and community over the individual, there is an overwhelming drive to overcome selfishness and ego. It is a truly universal and innately human quality to seek to better ourselves. Inversely, however, giving into our shackles can become a curse of despair leading to bitterness, fear and apathy.

For 2014, Big Idea Theatre’s company has chosen to tell seven distinct stories about breaking free from the binds that confine our potential as human beings. These stories of the  “unbound” will each explore struggles to surmount various constraints, real or imagined, placed on us by society, family and even ourselves.

The season begins with an epic inter-generational story of one man’s fight to break free from the destructive and abusive patterns of his family. The season then takes on battles against the binds of social pressure, self-doubt, racial and gender prejudice, fear of rejection, intellectual complacency and ends with a classic American story of man’s fight to forgive himself amidst a jungle of alluring temptations and distractions.

Big Idea Theatre is located at 1616 Del Paso Blvd. in Sacramento. All “Thrifty Thursday” show tickets are $10; general admission is $16 online, $20 at the door; SARTA/senior/student tickets are $14 online, $18 at the door. Season Tickets  cost $70 per person. Theatergoers can also purchase flex passes: four shows ($52) and six shows ($78).

For more information call the box office at (916) 960-3036 or visit bigideatheatre.com.

2014 season

“When the Rain Stops Falling” by Andrew Bovell
Jan. 10  through Feb. 8  

It’s raining. Gabriel York is anxiously awaiting the arrival of the son he abandoned decades ago. “I know what he wants. He wants what all young men want from their fathers. He wants to know who he is. Where he comes from. Where he belongs. And for the life of me I don’t know what to tell him.”

Thus begins, in its Sacramento debut, this compelling family saga that brings us on an intricate, heart-breaking journey from one generation to another, from 1959 to 2039, from London to Australia. Telling the story of four generations of fathers and sons, their mothers, lovers and wives, the play is epic in its scope, yet at the same time extraordinarily intimate.

“The Merry Wives” by William Shakespeare
Feb. 28 through March 29

Step back in time to the wild, wild West, where anything goes. It’s the Gold Rush, and tens of thousands of immigrants from around the world have flocked to California in search of their fortune. Among them is Sir John Falstaff, who, having failed to strike gold in the foothills, now attempts to win his fortune by other, less noble means. Enter Mistresses Page and Ford, whom Falstaff plots to separate from their gold by falsely pledging his love. The women, however, are not so easily fooled and turn the tables on the hapless Falstaff through a series of bawdy, raucous and hilarious pranks.

Enjoy this playful twist on Shakespeare’s classic comedy that celebrates our region’s vibrant history.

“Inventing Van Gogh” by Steven Dietz
April 18 through May 17

“Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” —Oscar Wilde.

In September 2013, the art world reeled when a painting, which had languished for years in a Norwegian attic, was revealed to be a previously undiscovered masterpiece by Vincent Van Gogh.

“Inventing Van Gogh” pulls us into the tale surrounding Van Gogh’s famed, final, lost self-portrait that has never been seen … until now. This time-bending mystery about the making of art introduces us to the legendary artist himself, the modern-day art expert whose quest for the lost portrait consumes his life, and the protégé who is lured into perpetrating a breathtaking, audacious fraud.

“The Submission” by Jeff Talbot
June 6 through July 5

Danny’s complex new drama about an African-American family struggling to leave the projects has just been selected for the nation’s preeminent play festival. But Danny, a young white, gay playwright, submitted his work under a pseudonym in the hope of increasing its chances for production. So he hires Emilie, a black actress, to stand in for him as author. What starts out as a questionable idea pulls Danny, Emilie, Danny’s boyfriend and his best friend down a path littered with truth, lies, revelation, and betrayal. This whip-smart, fearless and funny new play, in its Sacramento premiere, takes an unflinching look at the quiet prejudice that exists within us all.

“The Language Archive” by Julia Cho
July 25 through Aug. 23  

George has spent his life documenting languages, but words fail him when Mary, his wife, tells George that she is leaving him.  That same day, the last two speakers of a vanishing tongue arrive to work with George and his love-struck assistant, Emma, to record their language for posterity. This magical tale is filled with love and loss, beginning and endings and examines the force and failings of language.

“The Exit Interview” by William Missouri Downs
Sept. 12 through Oct. 11  

Dick Fig has been fired. On his last day at his university Dick’s excruciating exit interview with Eunice, a humorless HR representative, is interrupted by an unexpected and violent incident.  Downs’ witty play bounces from Brechtian interludes to a pair of politically radicalized cheerleaders, from a pompous newsman to dispatches from God, and includes debates on religion, science and politics before reaching its startling conclusion.

“The Night of the Iguana” by Tennessee Williams
Nov. 7 through Dec. 6

De-frocked priest T. Lawrence Shannon attempts to hide from his personal demons in a dilapidated hotel on the coast of Mexico and instead finds himself enmeshed in intrigue as three women battle for his attention: Maxine, a sensuous, earthy proprietor of the hotel, who wants Shannon to share her bed; Charlotte, a young girl looking to escape her conservative upbringing; and Hannah, a penniless artist of heartbreaking dignity and courage who wants to save Shannon from himself. Tennessee Williams last great play is a haunting story of dying dreams, frustrated sexuality, and lost-souls transformed as people are pushed to their breaking point.

Big Idea Theatre


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