A Wednesday night “reveal” party was held at the Raven Theater last week, but the answer didn’t come in pink or blue. Rather, it was the lineup for the next season of productions planned for the venerable community Performing Arts Theater on North Street.
“Many plays are suggested to me throughout the year—I even listen to some of these suggestions!—and I am literally compiling the next season in my head while producing the current season,” said Steven David Martin, artistic director of the Raven Players. “I strive to present a variety of styles and genres, some that appeal to our longtime patrons, some that may interest folks that have never entered the Raven Theater before.”
The result of Martin’s ceaseless planning was made public last week, and the coming season will include some old favorites, overdue revivals and surprises as well.
“We always produce at least one original play every season; this is important to me to give local playwrights a platform to share their voices and enjoy a fully mounted production of their work,” Martin said. He noted that next season the Raven Players will present two original works to “give our patrons a completely unique experience from other theaters in the area.”
The diverse list of plays speaks to Martin’s and the Raven Players’ commitment to meeting the challenges of community theater with imagination and diversity.
“The old-school model for community theater used to be shows like My Fair Lady, The Odd Couple, Oklahoma, The Glass Menagerie, A Christmas Carol; all fine shows, but all rather old and somewhat overdone shows as well. While I love to produce the classics, especially with a fresh approach, I also love sharing new works with our audience.”
• Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the Tim Rice-Andrew Lloyd Weber musical, will kick off the 2023–24 season, running from June 30–July 16. It will be directed by Joe Gellura, with music direction by Les Pfultzenreuter and choreography by Bridget Codoni.
• The Comedy of Errors will be this summer’s Shakespeare in the Park production, to be staged at West Plaza Park from July 27–Aug. 12. Steven David Martin will direct. All performances will be free.
“We always do a free summer outdoor Shakespeare, always comedies so far,” Martin said. “It’s much shorter and easier to keep an audience engaged on what turns into chilly Sonoma County summer evenings!”
• Home, a Raven world premiere of a drama on homelessness by Nathaniel Roberts, directed by Ron Smith. It will run Sept. 8–17.
• Evil Dead: The Musical, the light-hearted romp about a serial killer returns to the Raven again this year, complete with special Splatter Zone seating. Book and lyrics by George Reinblatt, with diverse composers. Oct. 13–29.
Said Martin, “Evil Dead was such a hit and brought in such a new demographic for us last year, it seemed a no-brainer to bring it back and schedule it closer to Halloween. If all goes well this year, it may become an October staple for us, a la Rocky Horror Show!”
• Betty and Edith and Sue will be another Raven original, about three strong and independent women who rule an Italian neighborhood in Pittsburgh. It runs Nov. 10–19, 2023.
• Chimichangas and Zoloft is an irreverent story about the search for happiness and the mysteries of sexuality. Dates are Jan 26–Feb. 11, 2024.
“We are a community theater so we have a responsibility to connect with our community,” Martin said. “We have been making a concerted effort to reach out and engage our Latino/Latina/Latinx population the past couple of seasons and will continue to do so. I would like the Raven to be more colorful and diverse onstage, backstage and in the audience.”
• Annie, the enduring musical about a red-headed orphan girl in 1930s New York, returns to the Raven after an absence of several years. March 22–April 7, 2024.
• Dead Man’s Cell Phone is an imaginative comedy by MacArthur “Genius” Grant-recipient and Pulitzer Prize-finalist Sarah Ruhl. Dates are May 10–May 26.
• Company concludes the 2023–24 season with Steven Sondheim’s defining musical of the 1970s, winner of six Tony awards. It will run June 28–July 14, 2024.