This fall, Actors’ Theatre Grand Rapids will kick off its 2017-18 season with The Nether, the first of five shows running through May 2018.
The Nether by Jennifer Haley is being directed by local playwright, director and professor Randy Wyatt. The show is about a futuristic “virtual wonderland” that immerses users in all senses. A detective then discovers a realm called “The Hideaway” where pedophiles can live out their fantasies, and suddenly society and laws are put into question.
“My artistic vision for The Nether is that through projection and other design elements, audiences will be transported into a digital realm along with the characters,” said Kyle Los, executive director at Actors’ Theatre. “One of the brilliant things about the piece is that it confronts humanity as a group of beings who exist in not only practical reality but also digital reality. What we say and do online has as much impact on our emotions, histories and futures as things said and done in person. The question, then, is how are we held responsible for things done in the digital reality that are illegal?
“Should we police and hold legal action for crimes not committed in the physical reality? And if so, how do we effectively do that? Another side of the story is how society treats pedophiles. Do we offer any hope, help or plausible positive future?”
Los is excited to start a conversation with the community about these controversial topics, a testament to Actors’ Theatre’s continual mission. The Nether will run Oct. 5-8 and 12-14.
Other shows in the 36th season include:
■ Nov. 9-12, 16-18: Passing Strange by Stew and Heidi Rodewald, directed by Fred Sebulske
■ Feb. 1-4, 8-10: If/Then by Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt, directed by Jolene Frankey
■ April 19-22, 26-28: The Whale by Samuel D. Hunter, directed by Fred Sebulske
■ May 17-20, 24-26: The Flick by Annie Baker, directed by Michelle Urbane
The first three shows of the season will be the first time they have premiered in Michigan. It was also recently announced that Passing Strange is having a professional revival next spring, but the rights holders are allowing Actors’ to stage the play anyway before it returns to the world of equity theater.
“What is beautiful about the season as a whole is that there are shows dealing with difficult and specific issues, to vast complex journeys and stories of exploration, to celebrations of the intimate and mundane,” Los said. “It’s all life as we all know it and it’s beautiful and wonderful.”
In other news, Actors’ Theatre is introducing a new season pass for theater lovers aged 21-35. The “Actors’ Access Pass” allows individuals to pay $20 to become a member, making each main stage and second space show only $15 a ticket. They can also pay $30 instead and then have access to two $15 tickets each show, with the second person not required to fit within the age range.
“It’s truly a great deal,” Los said. “If someone purchases the $30 pass and attends all five mainstage shows, they will have saved $100 on tickets. We believe in the inclusion of all and that means we need to do our part to make it affordable and accessible.”
For more information, head to actorstheatregrandrapids.org.