As Peterborough Players begins to close in on a century of entertaining audiences, its 86th summer season will continue to delight and surprise them.
The lineup includes everything from classic drama and comedy to contemporary and musical theater, along with an East Coast premiere; plays by local playwrights with national recognition; and a succession of strong female roles that bring the return of several actors.
There is one more distinction in this year’s season.
“All plays are by American playwrights,” said Gus Kaikkonen, Peterborough Players’ artistic director.
Kicking things off is a performance of Russell Davis’ “Mahida’s Extra Key to Heaven,” opening June 19.
The story follows a young American painter who encounters an Iranian college student waiting for a ferry that will not come until the next day. He offers her shelter for the night at his mother’s house nearby, which triggers a heated chain of events.
It stars Aliah Whitmore, granddaughter of the late actor and Peterborough Players veteran, James Whitmore.
“She auditioned and blew me away,” said Kaikkonen. “I was looking for (a play) for her and found this one.”
Playwright Davis has a home in New Hampshire and family in Peterborough. He’s also a world-class juggler, said Kaikkonen, who sometimes rehearses in the theater lobby.
Next up, opening July 3, is “Gertrude Stein and a Companion” by Win Wells, about the 40-year relationship between novelist/poet/playwright Stein and her partner, editor and muse, Alice B. Toklas. In the early 20th century they left behind their privileged American lives and lived in bohemian Paris.
“They set up a salon and introduced everybody to everybody,” said Kaikkonen of the pair, who were visited by the likes of Matisse, Picasso, Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thornton Wilder.
“They were big supporters of modern art and coined the term, ‘the lost generation.’ Their home was the center of cultural life — everybody wanted to go there.”
The third show of the season, opening July 17, is “Morning’s at Seven” by Paul Osborn, who wrote both the screenplay for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific” and the James Dean film, “East of Eden,” among others. This semi-autobiographical Tony Award-winning Broadway comedy highlights Midwestern eccentricity as told by four sisters in the 1930s who have lived next door to each other most of their lives.
The summer season musical (opening July 31) is “She Loves Me,” a 1960s comedy about co-workers in a Budapest perfume shop finding love in the want ads. The Tony Award-winning show was written by the writers of “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Cabaret.”
MGM Studios used the same source material (the Hungarian play, “Parfumerie”) for the films “The Shop Around the Corner” starring James Stewart and “In the Good Old Summertime” starring Judy Garland.
New Hampshire playwright Charles Morey’s “Dumas’ Camille” opens Aug. 14., a love story set in 1895 Paris that explores the relationship between truth, memory and art.
“This piece is about what a writer does when he takes life and turns it into fiction,” said Kaikkonen, “and what he owes to the people he’s based his story on.”
“A Doll’s House, Part 2,” a comedy by Lucas Hnath, opens Aug. 28. The most-produced play in America during the 2018-2019 season, it picks up the story of Henrik Ibsen’s classic, “A Doll’s House.” The Tony Award-winning play starred actress Laurie Metcalf on Broadway.
“Lucas Hnath felt like an outsider in his own family,” said Kaikkonen of the playwright. “He writes about the consequences of that.”
Closing the mainstage season is “Rose” by Martin Sherman, opening Sept 11 for five performances through Sept. 15. It tells the story of a woman whose life began in a small Russian village and took her to Warsaw ghettos and a ship that brought her to the boardwalks of Atlantic City and around the United States. Sherman is also the author of “Bent,” which explores the persecution of homosexuals during the Holocaust.
“He realized within his own family he had people who had witnessed first-hand almost all the major events of the 20th century,” said Kaikkonen.
In addition to the Main Stage productions, the Players Second Company will perform two plays for children and families: “How I Became a Pirate” will run June 19-30 and is based on the popular children’s book; and “Cindy Reilly” (Aug. 17-24) is a commissioned play by Kaikkonen and Kraig Swartz that is a modern Cinderella story.
“I’m so proud of the season and the company we put together,” said Kaikkonen.
Single tickets, season subscriptions and barn door flex passes to the Peterborough Players 86th summer season are available at Peterborough Players, 55 Hadley Road, by calling 924-7585 or at peterboroughplayers.org. Visit the website for a complete schedule and more information.