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American Repertory Theater’s 2021-2022 season to feature a pre-Broadway revival of ‘1776’

Other highlights include collaborations with Whitney White, Idina Menzel, Ayodele Casel, and the Silkroad Ensemble

Whitney White, the creator and performer of "Macbeth In Stride," which will feature White’s original R&B, gospel, pop, and rock ‘n’ roll songs.
Whitney White, the creator and performer of "Macbeth In Stride," which will feature White’s original R&B, gospel, pop, and rock ‘n’ roll songs.OJ Slaughter

The American Repertory Theater’s pandemic-interrupted revival of “1776″ is now slated to be presented next May as the final production of its season, then move on to Broadway.

Preceding “1776″ in the 2021-2022 season at the Cambridge-based ART will be a batch of premieres and collaborations with such theater artists as V (formerly known as Eve Ensler, author of “The Vagina Monologues”); Idina Menzel (a Tony Award winner for “Wicked”); and Whitney White (director of an electric ART-presented production of “What to Send Up When It Goes Down” two years ago).

Though the ART announced the schedule for its upcoming season Saturday night, exact run dates for most shows were not made public. The season will begin in August with an outdoors production, “The Arboretum Experience,” and subsequent productions will take place indoors, at the Loeb Drama Center in Cambridge. All the shows that take place indoors through December will be one-acts, with no intermission.

“I’ve been thinking about the role that theater can play to bring us back into community with each other,” artistic director Diane Paulus said in an interview with the Globe. “How do we use theater as a ritual to begin again, together?”


One answer can be seen in the 2021-2022 schedule, through which are woven matters of environmental awareness and the climate crisis, and questions of racial justice and identity. That includes “1776,” a 1969 musical that depicts fierce disputes over slavery amid the drafting and signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Paulus, who called herself a “superfan” of “1776,” said that co-creators Peter Stone (book) and Sherman Edwards (music and lyrics) “looked back at our nation’s founding with a critical eye,” adding: “To look back at that history right now feels really important.”

The show’s cast will “reflect multiple representations of race, ethnicity, and gender” that will, according to Paulus, “let the audience view the show through the lens of 2022.”


To be co-directed by Paulus and Jeffrey L. Page, with choreography by Page, “1776″ will be presented at the Loeb from May to July 2022 in a co-production by the ART and New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company. Then the musical will transfer in the fall of 2022 to the American Airlines Theatre in New York. A national tour will launch in February 2023, Paulus said.

The ART’s 2021-2022 season will kick off Aug. 21 with “The Arboretum Experience,” a “self-guided journey” through the Arnold Arboretum featuring pop-up musical and dance performances, “movement experiences,” and audio plays. The production is the handiwork of playwright Kirsten Greenidge, musician Tim Hall, choreographer Jill Johnson, and director Summer L. Williams.

Paulus described it as a way to “say welcome, like an invitation to come out of the isolating world we’ve been living in, a curated experience you can follow and listen to on your telephone, guiding you on this adventurous and artistic journey through the Arboretum.”

Next, in September, will come the live premiere of a dance work that has previously been performed virtually: “Ayodele Casel: Chasing Magic,” created and performed by tap dancer Ayodele Casel. Directed by Torya Beard, “Chasing Magic” is “joyous — you experience the show and your heart sings, your spirit soars,” Paulus said.

Ayodele Casel
Ayodele CaselPatrick Randak

That will be followed in October and November by the world premiere of “Macbeth In Stride.” Created and performed by Whitney White, “Macbeth In Stride” “examines what it means to be an ambitious Black woman through the lens of one of Shakespeare’s most iconic characters,” according to press materials. Paulus described it as “Whitney’s channeling of Lady M.”


To be directed by Tyler Dobrowsky and Taibi Magar, “Macbeth In Stride” will feature White’s original R&B, gospel, pop, and rock ‘n’ roll songs. It is the first of a five-part series, commissioned by the ART, in which White will explore Shakespeare’s female characters.

Nov. 19-21, Silkroad Ensemble will perform “Phoenix Rising,” a series of concerts featuring singer-instrumentalist Rhiannon Giddens, who serves as the artistic director of the ensemble. Described in press materials as “a collective grieving song and a clarion call” that seeks to unite audiences as “we emerge from a long and stunning upheaval,” it will be the first performance by Giddens with the Yo-Yo Ma-founded Silkroad Ensemble since she was appointed artistic director.

In December, the ART will present the world premiere of “WILD In Concert,” a new musical fable featuring Menzel as a single mother who, according to press materials, is “battling to hold on to her family farm and to connect with her teenage daughter, whose determination to save the planet endows her and her friends with powers they never knew they had.” Paulus will direct, with a book by V, whose prior collaborations with the ART include “In the Body of the World” and “O.P.C”; music by Justin Tranter and Caroline Pennell; and lyrics by Tranter, Pennell, and V.


Also in December will be the ART’s annual family holiday show. This year it’s a musical version of “Jack and the Beanstalk,” with a book, music, and lyrics by Julia Riew, directed by Rebecca Aparicio, and performed by Harvard undergraduates.

February and March will see the world premiere of “Ocean Filibuster,” which Paulus described as a “genre-crashing show.” After a bill is introduced within an august governing body to shrink the world’s oceans to a collection of inland seas, the Ocean itself enters the body’s chamber to argue on its own behalf. “Ocean Filibuster” was created by PearlDamour, the team of Katie Pearl and Lisa D’Amour. It was written by D’Amour, with music by Sxip Shirey, and will be directed by Pearl.

Information about programming at Oberon, the ART’s club stage near Harvard Square, will be announced at a later date.

Don Aucoin can be reached at donald.aucoin@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeAucoin.