Soho Rep, a 65-seat Off Off Broadway theater in Lower Manhattan, has always been a home for experimental and formally imaginative work. But a play in its new season is beyond anything one of the three directors of the company, Meropi Peponides, would have thought he would be able to support: a Bengali-English play.
“I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams when I started working at Soho Rep that it would be something we could never produce,” said Peponides. “It is so exciting to be able to represent the experiences of South Asian Americans in the diaspora.”
The show, Shayok Misha Chowdhury’s “Public Oscenities”, is part of the theater’s 2022-23 season, which will run from October to July 2023. There will be three world premieres, two of them written by artists who were first class members of the Theater Pandemic Era Job Creation Initiative, Project Number One.
The premieres “are emblematic of what Soho Rep does,” said Peponides, who directs the theater alongside Sarah Benson and Cynthia Flowers. “We commit to an idea when it is still an idea and we develop it through to production”.
The first is Kate Tarker’s “Montag” (October 12-November 13), a play about female friendship set in a basement apartment in a small German town near an American military base. The production, to be directed by Dustin Wills (“Wolf Play”), is described as a “domestic thriller, a sleep deprivation comedy and a celebration of rebellion threatened with annihilation.”
It will be followed by Chowdhury’s bilingual “Public Oscenities” (February 15-March 26, 2023), which originated during his time as a member of Project Number One. The production is a co-commission and co-production with the National Asian American Theater Company’s National Partnership Project. It tells the story of a queer graduate student who returns to his family home in Calcutta, India with his black American boyfriend and makes an unexpected discovery. Chowdhury will also direct.
The close of the season is “The Whitney Album” (May 24-July 2, 2023). The play, by Jillian Walker (who also participated in Project Number One), explores Walker’s relationship with the life and death of Whitney Houston, as well as perceptions of her in the American imagination. Jenny Koons directs.
And Project Number One is back, with its third class, this time with the stylist and costume designer Hahnji Jang and the lighting designer Kate McGee. The initiative brings artists into the organization as salaried staff members ($ 1,250 per week) with benefits, including one year of health insurance coverage and a $ 10,000 budget to create a new work.