What's Next in 2017-18?

by Artistic Director Jennifer Uphoff Gray

This is the time of year when I always find myself looking to Forward's future: we've finished up another successful season and we've announced the next season's slate of plays. I'm finalizing the casting and design teams, and subscription orders are pouring into the office. It's a wonderful time to take stock, take a deep breath, and just enjoy contemplating what lies ahead.

How fitting, then, that the theme for our upcoming season is, What's Next? Each of our plays is going to take us on a journey that looks to the future. And there are different aspects of each that have me trembling with eager anticipation!

I first read Lauren Gunderson's magical play I & You in the summer of 2014. To say that I fell head over heels in love with it would be an understatement. I get goosebumps just remembering what it was like to read that script for the first time. It has been hard to wait so long to bring this story to all of you, but I know it's going to be worth the wait! I'm particularly thrilled that this play will give us a chance to showcase two remarkable young performers who have grown up in Wisconsin's professional theaters: Alistair Sewell (seen at FTC and APT, as well as Northlight Theater in Illinois) and Chantae Miller, of Milwaukee Rep and First Stage. They are going to break your hearts - and put them back together again.

Ike Holter's Exit Strategy set my hair on fire (metaphorically) when I read it. It is so fresh and funny and the characters are so vividly drawn! I believe this is going to be one of those classic FTC productions where you'll be laughing and gasping all the way through the performance, and then on the way home you'll realize how profoundly it's changed the way you look at a major issue in our society. I'm so grateful that the brilliant Milwaukee actor-director Marti Gobel will be back at Forward to take the helm for this play. And her cast is a perfect blend of faces familiar and new: Sarah Day (Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike), Jim Buske (Moonlight & Magnolias), Melisa Pereyra (APT), Erika Wade, Marques Causey (The Flick), Daniel Torres-Rangel and Nick Harazin (The Farnsworth Invention).

We'll close our 9th season with Jordan Harrison's mind-blowing Marjorie Prime. Set in the mid-21st Century, it imagines that we can now recreate our lost loved ones with artificial intelligence. I can't tell you how profoundly this play resonates with me. It gets at the very heart of how we approach aging, grief, loss and healing. Having lost my own mother far too soon, this play makes me think hard about what lengths I would be willing to go to in order to have her back in my life. With a rock-star cast that includes Brian Mani, Niffer Clark, Michael Huftile and Judy Kimball, I cannot wait to get into the rehearsal room next spring to tackle these thorny questions!

I hope all of you - our Forward Family - have a relaxed and fun summer. I'm looking forward to seeing you back in the Playhouse this fall!