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North Bay theater companies announce next shows

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Photograph by Kim Taylor
Literary love: Chuck Isen and Jennifer Reimer co-star in 'Shadowlands,' currently running with the Ross Valley Players.

By David Templeton

For most North Bay theater companies, springtime marks the halfway point in their season of shows, most of which began in September of last year. For those companies whose seasons begin with the first of the year, we've only just begun, but many companies choose spring to make their announcements, naming the plays and musicals that will make up their next season.

Such announcements, anticipated the way some anticipate Christmas morning, have already begun and will continue over the next several weeks. A few of these initial announcements are little more than hints and teases. Others are the whole enchilada, listing every play, author and date of performance. More will be announced in the near future, but here's what we know for now.

Having only just begun its 10-month-long 2008 season, the popular Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland is first out of the gate with a March 7 announcement of the 11 plays in rotation for the 2009 season, a mix of Shakespeare, classics, world premieres and a rare musical. Beginning with the Shakespeares, the lineup is Macbeth, All's Well That Ends Well, Henry VIII and Much Ado About Nothing.

Also on the roster are Nigerian playwright Wole Soyinka's anti-colonial Death and the King's Horseman , Clifford Odets' Paradise Lost , Carlo Goldoni's The Servant of Two Masters , a new adaptation of Don Quixote by San Francisco playwright Octavio Solis, a world-premiere comedy by Bill Cain about the aging Shakespeare titled Equivocation , Sarah Ruhl's comic-thriller Dead Man's Cell Phone and the aforementioned musical, a stripped-down rethinking of Meredith Wilson's The Music Man . (For reviews of the shows currently running in Ashland, check

The Music Man will make an earlier appearance late this summer, when Santa Rosa's Sixth Street Playhouse opens its new season with Wilson's popular tune-a-palooza, directed by Holly Vinson, who will incorporate students from her annual summer theater camp into a cast of seasoned adults. That's all that we've been told so far about the season (no one gets the full report until after the company's donors and subscribers hear the news at next week's gala announcement party). What we do know is that the season will comprise four musicals and three non-musicals to be staged on the 185-seat G. K. Hardt Stage, with the new Studio Theater playing host to an additional four plays, more along the "edgy" lines of last January's Public Exposure and the currently running Oleanna by David Mamet.

In fact, three companies have announced their intention to stage old and new works by the controversial Mamet. In Marin's sleepy little Ross, the Ross Valley Players have announced an ambitious season that includes Mamet's macho masterpiece Glengarry Glen Ross . Also in the lineup are Ron Hutchinson's Moonlight and Magnolias (recently staged by the Sonoma County Repertory Theater in Sebastopol); Samuel Taylor's 1954 romantic comedy Sabrina Fair (best known for inspiring the beloved Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart film Sabrina ); Ron Severdia's one-man-show adaptation of Dickens' A Christmas Carol ; Alfred Uhry's lovely Jewish-American comedy-drama The Last Night of Ballyhoo ; Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge ; and Alan Ayckbourn's newish Private Fears in Public Places .

Santa Rosa's Narrow Way Stage Company has announced its summer schedule, with recent Mamet creation Romance —a screwball courtroom comedy about duplicity, legal double-dealing and bigotry—to be performed in repertory with local playwright Dan Farley's harrowing Darryl Come Home .

Mamet may appear again in the Sonoma County Repertory 's 2009 season, since, according to producing artistic director Scott Phillips, Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross is one of several show they are considering. Other potential choices include John Patrick Shanley's Doubt , Lisa Loomer's ADD fantasia Distracted , Ibsen's Hedda Gabler , John Murray and Allen Boretz's Room Service , Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor's All the Great Books (abridged) , Robert Hewett's The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead and a new re-imagining/adaptation of Shakespeare's Tempest by Sebastopol's Conrad Bishop.

Lastly, San Rafael's Marin Shakepeare Festival , which opens in July, will stage the Bard's ever-popular Much Ado About Nothing (never trust your friends!), The Winter's Tale (the queen's not dead, she's just been pretending to be a statue for 16 years!) and Peter Shaffer's Amadeus (Salieri did it!).

Mark your calendars and check websites for the inevitable changes and additions.

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