A number of firsts will be part of the new 2019-2020 Rochester Civic Theatre season announced last week to patrons.
They include two simultaneous Christmas shows, a slate of professional guest directors, and the absence of a summertime show.
Among notable productions on the schedule is “Romeo & Juliet,” with members of the Great River Shakespeare Festival company acting alongside up to 30 Rochester high school student actors.
There are also some traditional offerings, including three major musicals, starting with “Mama Mia” in September.
It’s all part of a long-range plan to refocus the efforts of the Civic, said Kevin Miller, executive director.
“We’re just getting going on this,” he said.
The new season charts a path of combined professional and amateur productions, which can be used as a teaching platforms for local actors.
“We hope this can provide not just entertainment, but also education,” Miller said.
Included in the list of guest directors are two women, one of whom is African-American, and an African-American male.
“We want all members of our community to feel comfortable here, and they won’t do that if they don’t see themselves on stage,” Miller said.
The changes were set in motion by upheaval at the Civic two years ago when the previous executive director was accused of harassment and improprieties, and a popular longtime artistic director was let go. Dozens of volunteers vowed never to return to the Civic and most of them have kept that promise.
On the other hand, Miller said, “We’ve certainly had a lot of new people audition.”
But aside from musicals, which featured large casts of local talent, casts in non-musicals have been filled out by professional actors and directors Miller has brought in from the Twin Cities, Wisconsin, Chicago and the Washington, D.C., area.
“We’re really passionate about utilizing as much local talent as we can,” he said. The opportunity to work alongside professional actors and directors should be attractive to local artists, he said. “We hope they see value in that experience,” he said.
The 2019-2020 season:
• “Mama Mia,” Sept. 13-29, directed by Megan West.
• “Night of the Living Dead,” Oct. 18-Nov. 2, directed by Peter Moore. The show will be presented in the black box theater. “The black box is going to be turned into one big cemetery,” Miller said.
• “Elf, the Musical,” Dec. 6-22, directed by Ryan Cappleman.
• “The Santaland Diaries,” Dec. 13-21, in the black box, directed by Richard Thompson. “It’s an experiment, and we’ll see how it goes over,” Miller said of presenting two Christmas plays.
• “The Other Place,” Feb. 7-23, in the black box, directed by Miller.
• “Romeo & Juliet,” March 13-29, directed by Doug Scholz-Carlson of the Great River Shakespeare Festival.
• “Hairspray, the Musical,” May 1-17, directed by Austene Van.
Season ticket packages are available in a variety of price ranges, from $175 to $350. Call 282-8481 or visit rochestercivictheatre.org. Discounts are in place until May 31. Individual ticket prices will remain the same at $31 for adults, $26 for seniors and $21 for students.