Soho Rep, a 65-seat Off Off Broadway theater in Lower Manhattan, has always been a home for experimental and formally inventive work. But a play in its new season goes beyond what one of the company’s three directors, Meropi Peponides, never thought he would be able to support: a Bengali-English play.
“When I started working on Soho Rep, I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams that that would be something we could ever produce,” said Peponides. “It’s very exciting to be able to represent the experiences of South Asian Americans in the diaspora.”
The play, “Public Obscenities” by Shayok Misha Chowdhury, is part of the theatre’s 2022-23 season, which runs from October to July 2023. There will be three world premieres, two of which were written by artists who were members. of the first class of the theater’s pandemic-era job creation initiative, Project Number One.
The premieres “are emblematic of what Soho Rep does,” said Peponides, who runs the theater with Sarah Benson and Cynthia Flowers. “We commit to an idea when it’s still an idea and build it all the way to production.”
The first is Kate Tarker’s “Montag” (Oct. 12-Nov. 13), a play about female friendship set in a small German town basement near a US military base. The production, which will be directed by Dustin Wills (“Wolf Play”), is described as a “domestic thriller, a sleep deprivation comedy and a celebration of rebellion under threat of annihilation.”
It will be followed by Chowdhury’s bilingual “Public Obscenities” (February 15-March 26, 2023), which originated during his time as a member of the Number One Project. The production is a co-commission and co-production with the Partnership Project. National of the National Asian American Theater Company. It tells the story of a queer studies doctoral student who returns to his family’s home in Kolkata, India with his African-American boyfriend and makes an unexpected discovery. Chowdhury will also direct.
The closing of the season is “The Whitney Album” (May 24 to July 2, 2023). The play, by Jillian Walker (who was also a part of Project Number One), explores Walker’s relationship to 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 promo, this time with stylist and costume designer Hahnji Jang and lighting designer Kate McGee. The initiative brings artists into the organization as salaried staff members ($1,250 per week) with benefits, including a year of health insurance coverage and a $10,000 budget to create new work.