It’s hard to determine the classics in art, especially in a place undergoing as much change as Austin. In the realm of theater, made to exist outside of its provenance, Penfold Theater Company has Austin covered. The company announced its 15th season on July 26, centering on “reimagined classic stories.”
This 2022-23 season is also the 10th of “Penfold in the Park,” a free summer series at the Round Rock Amphitheater.
"We have awakened from a pandemic hibernation and for Season 15, we are ready to soar,” said producing artistic director Ryan Crowder in a press release. “As a result, we’re launching exciting new initiatives: a focus on making old stories new again, a series of world premieres, an arts leadership apprentice program with Texas State University, and a ‘Great Plays in Great Places’ series that brings performances to iconic locations in Central Texas.”
Classic stories, to the Penfold Theater, may still remain untold — in these ways, anyway. That means it goes past Shakespeare, to annual favorites and new commissions of historic topics that could use a modern revival. The full schedule is as follows:
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, September 29 – October 16, 2022
This play has survived more than 400 years in the classic theater canon, and all 10 seasons of Penfold in the Park. It’s all about wordplay, trickery, and the magic of the stage, so as long as there are new players, it’ll never get old. This time with help from a Texas State University apprentice program, all 21 characters are played by just four actors.
A Christmas Carol Classic Radiocast, December 8-17 and 22-23, 2022
This first leg of this live-foley, all-women broadcast takes place at two historic venues per the “Great Places” mission: the Old Settler’s Association of Williamson County in Round Rock, and the Driskill Hotel in Austin. The Charles Dickens story comes to life on theater with a behind-the-scenes look at both radio and Christmas magic.
Vincent, March 23 – April 8, 2023
Vincent Van Gogh captures hearts over and over in different media throughout history, this time in a play based on real letters between the lonely visionary painter and his brother, Theo. Penfold co-founders Ryan Crowder and Nathan Jerkins take turns at Austin’s Ground Floor Theater performing this one-person show about how art makes us feel brave and alive.
Box, June 23 – July 8, 2023
This historical fiction commission is the second in a series of Penfold world premieres over five seasons. Also shown at the Ground Floor Theater, it tells the story of Henry Box Brown, a real magician enslaved in 19th-century Virginia who mailed himself to abolitionists. Like the rest in the series, Box is meant to share “Penfold’s values of empathy and hope.”
The program this season is small but mighty, with plenty of opportunities to catch up on must-know stories, or the stage equivalent of comfort food for long-time theater lovers. Memberships for 2022-23 ($79), excluding A Midsummer Night’s Dream, are available now at penfoldtheatre.org. Individual tickets will be announced as the season nears.