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Women take charge at Blackfriars’ 2020-21 season

Jeff Spevak

Artistic and managing director Danny Hoskins calls the Blackfriars Theatre 2020-21 season “a journey.” If so, the men will be left standing on the wharf, watching the ship sail.

“We decided to do something that the Academy Awards didn’t do,” development manager Mary Tiballi Hoffman said Monday night at the Blackfriars announcement for the upcoming season at its East Main Street theater.

While the recent Oscars awards failed to recognize any female directors, Blackfriars has placed all six of the upcoming season’s productions in the hands of women.

As Hoffman emphatically noted, “It’s about damn time, indeed.”

In this 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in the United States, perhaps the most intriguing statement will be made in the season’s final show, Sam Shepard’s True West, a story of brotherly conflict running May 14-30, 2021. In what’s being called a “gender-expansive spin,” some of the shows will be directed by a man, Tom Coughlin. But others will be directed by a woman, Kasi Krenzer Marshall, with the two protagonist brothers replaced by two sisters.

“We know that brothers behave differently than sisters,” Marshall said. “So when they’re faced with the same stressors, and the same goals, how did they react differently in their different genders?”

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Blackfriars’ current season is still running; Silent Sky starts March 27, and Calendar Girls closes it out in May. The new season opens with a musical filled with instantly familiar songs by Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, Smokey Joe’s Café. Running from Sept. 4-20, the show is built around “Hound Dog,” Love Potion #9” and “Stand By Me.” It will be directed by Esther Winter.

The rest of the season:

Every Brilliant Thing, Oct. 22-Nov. 1. Hoskins, having handed over the Blackfriars keys to women this season, has time on his hands to be featured in this one-man play about depression, and discovering the things that make life worth living. It will be directed by Patricia Lewis Browne.

Miss Bennett: Christmas at Pemberley, Dec. 11-31. A comedy based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It will be directed by Lindsay Warren Baker.

The Noteworthy Life of Howard Baines, Feb. 12-28, 2021. Just a year old, this is described as a musical about a musical hater trapped in a musical. It will be directed by Kerry Young.

The Wolves, March 25-April 2, 2021. A girls’ soccer team is bigger than the indoor field it plays on. This show is a partnership with the Nazareth College Department of Theater and Dance. It will be directed by Alexa Scott-Flaherty.

Blackfriars’ non-theater programs continue to expand. It will once again offer its Summer Intensive for young people interested in theater, with a July 10-19 production of Godspell. The schedule also includes a Women in Arts panel March 30; the women’s comedy group EstroFest at a Blackfriars fundraiser May 1-3; and theater’s fundraising “Season Soirée” Nov. 21 at Artisan Works. The season also includes the Hourglass staged readings of four plays; The Blackfriars Comedy Series; and drag queen Mrs. Kasha Davis’ “Imagination Station,” directed at children. The lesson: “If they happen to see someone different,” Davis said, “treat them with kindness.” The June 13 “Flower City Drag Battle” might not be so kind.

For more, including ticket packages, go to, call (585) 454-1260 or go to the box office, 795 E. Main St., during weekday business hours.

Jeff Spevak is WXXI’s Arts & Life editor and reporter. He can be reached at

Jeff Spevak has been a Rochester arts reporter for nearly three decades, with seven first-place finishes in the Associated Press New York State Features Writing Awards while working for the Democrat and Chronicle.