The Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theater (The Gamm) has announced its 34th lineup for this fall, which will feature five plays and will be the first season the intimate theater company hosts from its new location at 1245 Jefferson Blvd. in Warwick, the site of the former Ocean State Theatre.
“This exciting move to the center of the state is an opportunity to solidify our reputation as a regional destination for serious and thrilling theater, and our inaugural season in Warwick promises to do just that,” said Gamm artistic director Tony Estrella in a press release issued Monday morning.
The release promises, "a slate of provocative stories that resonate boldly with our lives today," and that the upcoming season "will also deliver an enhanced audience experience, from free parking in our private lot, to a spacious lobby and a newly renovated, flexible performance space."
Estrella said on Monday that, as with all the lineups he has organized for The Gamm, each play would contain similar topical threads that relate to an overarching theme pertaining to modern society.
"The life's blood of what we do is our subscribers," he said. "We want to make sure there's something special about seeing all of them...Each of the productions play off each other in some ways."
Estrella said how this lineup includes the topical theme of societal anxiety, coupled with a simultaneous hopeful optimism in the indefatigable nature of the human spirit.
"We're living in a time where, certainly in my lifetime, I've never felt more of a mounting anxiety," Estrella said. "Part of that is obviously socio-political, and the other part of it is the fact that we're now a 'reach out and grab you' sort of global world...These things are wreaking havoc a bit, and at the same time our local communities are important and come together and we have a lot of positivity too. The stories, over the course of the year, look at both sides of that and all of it is about how we deal with things in times of crisis."
The lineup begins with “The Night of the Iguana,” a play originally written by legendary playwright Tennessee Williams (widely known for A Streetcar Named Desire) about an alcoholic reverend “at the end of his rope” who takes up a job as a tour guide in Mexico, and must either come to grips with his personal failings or seek redemption.
Next up is the dark comedy “Gloria,” originally written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, which was a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize and centers around a group of “ruthless editorial assistants at a notorious Manhattan magazine” who all seek a book deal. The release defined it as a “spot-on, bitingly funny commentary on American society, personal tragedy and the ever-ravenous media machine.”
Third is a United States premiere of “The Night Watch,” originally written by Sarah Waters and adapted by Hattie Naylor. The dramatic piece is set in a late 40s post-war London and goes backwards through the heart of Germany’s Blitz attack against the city through the stories of its protagonists.
Coming then, in a first for New England, is the British import “Escaped Alone,” written by Caryl Churchill. The play follows four “70-something” women who chat about everything from their grandkids to worldwide catastrophes.
Rounding out the season is “True West,” described as a “clear, funny, naturalistic” as well as “opaque, terrifying and surrealistic.” The play, written by Sam Shepard, revolves around estranged brothers Austin and Lee as they reunite unexpectedly in their mother’s home. It is billed as a “modern day Cain and Abel story that tackles the absurdity of archetypal America head on.”
Oliver Dow, managing director for The Gamm, said on Monday that the theater will be hosting an official grand opening event on Thursday, Sept. 6 in accordance with one of the city’s food truck evenings, with food available in The Gamm’s parking lot.
Dow said that the theater is in the midst of raising capital for renovations necessary to transforming the former Ocean State Theatre into a space conducive towards properly displaying The Gamm’s unique brand of intimate theater – and that they have raised about $750,000 of a $2 million goal towards the first phase of that endeavor.
“Things are moving quickly but we haven’t broken ground on the new space yet,” he said. “We're probably hopefully a month away from showing our progress.”
The Gamm is currently leasing the space while they fix it up and prepare for their first fall opening in Warwick. Dow said the plan is to eventually raise enough money – hopefully a large chunk through selling naming rights of the new theater – to buy the building and truly transform it into their new home.
Dow said they have already hired Site Specific construction out of Providence and LLB Architects out of Pawtucket to do the eventual work on the theater, and are working with a consultant to better community engagement. He added that renewals for memberships have already surpassed last year’s, with about 37 percent of subscribers already re-upping for the new season.
Memberships subscriptions are $155 to $250, and you can contact 723-4266 or go to gammtheatre.org for more information.
Of the new lineup, Dow said that it should please loyal patrons of The Gamm.
“I think it’s going to be a very good representation of the work we do,” he said. “Tony [Estrella], as always, will continue to stick with our mission, which is to address contemporary issues of consequence…It's a very exciting season that I think our audience will enjoy.”