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These are the shows that Philly theater insiders can’t wait to see in 2020

A musical at People's Light about civil rights leader Bayard Rustin, Arden's "Streetcar Named Desire," and the Wilma's "Is God Is" are among the shows the pros are anticipating in the new year.

Paige Price, producing artistic director of the Philadelphia Theatre Company, shared her 2020 must-sees.
Paige Price, producing artistic director of the Philadelphia Theatre Company, shared her 2020 must-sees.Read moreDAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer

“Theater Beat” rounds up news and notes from the theater scene in and around Philadelphia.

Making New Year’s resolutions? How about this one? See more plays in 2020, seated in a theater alongside your fellow human beings. It will add perspective to whatever this next year brings. And live theater is fun.

To help you make your choices, we asked Philly theater professionals to tell us what they’re excited to see in the year ahead. We’ll start with two prominent theater people this week and hear from more in next Tuesday’s column.

Paige Price’s 2020 must-sees

Price is the producing artistic director at Philadelphia Theatre Company, which will be staging two plays this winter and spring: Everything Is Wonderful by Chelsea Marcantel, (Feb. 14-March 8) and The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe. (April 10 – May 3). Beyond those, she’s keen to see these:

  1. The People’s Light’s world premiere musical Bayard Rustin: Inside Ashland. West Chester’s own Rustin was an openly gay Civil Rights activist and chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington. This play looks at his nonviolent desegregation efforts during his incarceration in Ashland, Ky. (May 13-June 7)

  2. The Wilma Theater’s Is God Is. Playwright Aleshea Harris "is among a group of exciting black writers challenging the terms and the forms of what gets produced today and how,” Price says. James Ijames directs. (May 16-June 14)

  3. On Broadway, Price is excited for the upcoming production of KPOP (by Jason Kim, Helen Park, and Max Vernon), featuring Philadelphia’s own Amanda Morton. “Amanda is an incredible musician, musical director, and artist and this is a pretty big deal for her,” Price says. "Dates are still tbd, but I’ll be watching!

Thom Weaver recommends

Weaver is a Barrymore Award-winning set and lighting designer who’ll be heading to London in January to design a new opera at the Barbican called Enemy of the State. Locally, he’s attached to both Is God Is and Describe the Night at the Wilma (Jan. 28-Feb. 16), Outside Mullingar at Delaware Theatre Company (Feb. 12-March 1), and a program of two world premieres by Deb Margolin called Two Blues at the Kimmel Center (April 2-5).

  1. Jacqueline Goldfinger’s Babel at Theatre Exile (Feb. 13-March 8) and Stephanie Kyung Sun Walters’ Esther Choi and the Fish That Drowned Simpatico Theatre Co. (March 25-April 12). “We have so many exciting writers in town,” Weaver says. “It’s nice to see a continued commitment to producing their work.”

  2. Streetcar Named Desire at Arden Theatre Co. (March 12-April 12). “That should be really thrilling,” Weaver says. “I find trauma and forgiveness to be concepts worth exploring at any time. They form the contours of how a moral society works (or doesn’t).” He’s excited to see Price’s Everything Is Wonderful at PTC for the same reason.

  3. Broadly, Weaver says, “I think what I’m most excited about as the season dovetails the national election is how art and activism and politics begin to overlap. I’m curious through what lens we’ll watch something like Describe the Night or The Niceties at InterAct Theatre Co.” (March 27-April 19).

  4. “And for anyone who doesn’t know, we have one of the country’s major new-work programs in PlayPenn every summer,” Weaver says. The rising-star playwrights whose plays will be workshopped and receive staged readings (free to the public) have not yet been announced. Stay tuned.