HARTFORD, CT — April 9, 2019 — Hartford Stage announced today the last two plays of the Tony Award-winning regional theatre’s 56th season. Incoming Hartford Stage Artistic Director Melia Bensussen will stage the Eugene O’Neill coming-of-age comedy Ah, Wilderness! It will be Bensussen’s first production as Artistic Director at Hartford Stage. Former Hartford Stage Artistic Director Michael Wilson will return to direct the original play that inspired the Oscar-winning film The King’s Speech, written by its Oscar-winning screenwriter David Seidler.
“I’m extremely excited to direct the last play of the season, O’Neill’s one truly celebratory treatment of family, his great comedy, Ah, Wilderness! – a production that I hope will, along with our other season offerings, remind us of the vitality and energy of live theatre, with its endless possibilities for discovering and reinventing ourselves,” Bensussen said.
Ah, Wilderness! takes place in a picturesque Connecticut town at the turn of the 20th century and paints a nostalgic portrait of small-town values, teenage growing pains, and young love. The warm-hearted play centers on teenaged Richard Miller, an aspiring poet who falls in love with the “girl-next-door.” His love letters and ensuing adventures lead his parents to recall their own romance and youth. Bensussen’s adaptation of O’Neill’s only comedy promises to be a joyous ode to Americana and the celebration of family, infused with period-appropriate live music.
Bensussen previously directed Ah, Wilderness! at Baltimore Center Stage in 2007. The production received praise from the Wall Street Journal, which called it “a model of what regional theatre can and should be.”
Melia Bensussen is an award-winning director and artistic leader who has directed extensively at leading theatres throughout the country since 1984, including productions at the Huntington Theatre Company, Sleeping Weazel, Shakespeare & Company, Actors’ Shakespeare Project, La Jolla Playhouse, Baltimore Center Stage, Hartford Stage, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the New York Shakespeare Festival, Manhattan Class Company, Primary Stages, Long Wharf Theatre, Cincinnati Playhouse, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Merrimack Repertory Theatre, People’s Light and Theatre Company, Bay Street Theatre and Playwrights Horizons, among others. Her acclaimed work with new plays has taken her to the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, New York Stage and Film, PlayPenn, The Playwrights’ Center, Sundance, and other new play programs across the country.
The King’s Speech will make its North American premiere, under Michael Wilson’s direction, at Chicago Shakespeare Theater in the fall of 2019 before coming to Hartford Stage. Other than the company’s annual production of his A Christmas Carol–A Ghost Story of Christmas, Wilson most recently directed the East Coast Premiere of Ether Dome at Hartford Stage in 2014. He served as Hartford Stage Artistic Director for 13 years, from 1998 to 2011.
“It’s a wonderful gift to our 2019/2020 season to welcome back Michael Wilson, especially with such an insightful and theatrical work. The King’s Speech addresses the need for clarity and honesty, the importance of history (and wit!), and reminds us of the gifts our mentors and teachers bring us,” Bensussen said. “In planning the 2019/2020 season alongside the brilliant Darko Tresnak, I’m grateful to have the opportunity to connect back to Michael’s legacy at Hartford Stage and to welcome you to once again enjoy his work.”
With international war looming, England’s King George V dies, leaving the Crown and the crisis to his youngest son Bertie. Shy, fragile and afflicted with a profound stammer, Bertie is ill-equipped to inspire and lead a people now instantaneously informed by a new invention: the wireless radio. He seeks help from Harley Street doctor, Lionel Logue, and finds an unexpected friendship. But can Logue actually cure the King? Their success or failure as therapist and patient will seal their destiny, the destiny of England and, perhaps, the world. The King’s Speech premiered at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in the UK before debuting on the West End. The film that followed the play won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay for David Seidler.
Ah, Wilderness! and The King’s Speech join the four previously-announced mainstage plays for the 2019/2020 season, including Quixote Nuevo by Octavio Solis; Cry it Out by Molly Smith Metzler; an adaptation of Jane Eyre from Hartford Stage Associate Artistic Director Elizabeth Williamson; and Pike St. by Nilaja Sun. The beloved holiday classic A Christmas Carol–A Ghost Story of Christmas will return for its 22nd season on Thanksgiving weekend.
Subscriptions for the six-play mainstage season are currently on sale. Visit https://www.hartfordstage.org/show/subscribe, or call the Hartford Stage Box Office at 860-527-5151. Please note that titles and artists are subject to change.
Tickets for A Christmas Carol–A Ghost Story of Christmas are on sale to subscribers only. It is not part of a subscription series.
Single ticket and group sales for all shows will go on sale in July. For information on group sale discounts, visit www.hartfordstage.org/group-sales or call (860) 527-5151.
The 2019/2020 Season
By Octavio Solis
Directed by KJ Sanchez
September 19 – October 13, 2019
Cry It Out
By Molly Smith Metzler
Directed by Rachel Alderman
October 24 – November 17, 2019
A Christmas Carol—A Ghost Story of Christmas
By Charles Dickens
Adapted and Originally Directed By Michael Wilson
Directed by Rachel Alderman
November 29 – December 28, 2019
Written and Performed by Nilaja Sun
Directed by Ron Russell
January 9 – February 2, 2020
By Charlotte Brontë
Adapted and Directed by Elizabeth Williamson
February 13 – March 15, 2020
The King’s Speech
By David Seidler
Directed by Michael Wilson
March 19 – April 19, 2020
By Eugene O’Neill
Directed by Melia Bensussen
May 7 – 31, 2020
Now in our 55th season, Hartford Stage is currently under the leadership of Artistic Director Darko Tresnjak. In January 2019, Melia Bensussen was named the sixth Artistic Director of Hartford Stage and will assume the role in June. One of the nation’s leading resident theatres, Hartford Stage is known for producing innovative revivals of classics and provocative new plays and musicals, including 73 world and American premieres, as well as offering a distinguished education program, which reaches close to 21,000 students annually.
Since Tresnjak’s appointment in 2011 the theatre has presented the world premieres of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder on Broadway, winner of four 2014 Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Direction of a Musical by Tresnjak; Rear Window with Kevin Bacon; the new musical Anastasia by Terrence McNally, Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens; Quiara Alegría Hudes’ Water by the Spoonful, winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama; Breath & Imagination by Daniel Beaty; Big Dance Theatre’s Man in a Case with Mikhail Baryshnikov; and Reverberation by Matthew Lopez.
Hartford Stage has earned many of the nation’s most prestigious awards, including the 1989 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre. Other national honors include Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk, OBIE, and New York Critics Circle awards. Hartford Stage has produced nationally renowned titles, including the New York transfers of Enchanted April; The Orphans’ Home Cycle; Resurrection(later retitled Through the Night); The Carpetbagger’s Children; and Tea at Five.
The leading provider of theatre education programs in Connecticut, Hartford Stage’s offerings include student matinees, in-school theatre residencies, teen performance opportunities, theatre classes for students (ages 3-18) and adults, afterschool programs and professional development courses.