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Geva 'Reimagined' season a nod to COVID-19, Black Lives Matter

Geva Theatre Center announced its 2020-21 season in March, although Artistic Director Mark Cuddy added the caveat that those plans could be challenged by the coronavirus pandemic.

That caveat landed this week, as Geva released plans for its “Reimagined” upcoming season, with four audio shows by Black writers and directors starting in October.

The series is called “Recognition Radio: An Audio Play Festival Celebrating Black Voices,” with the shows and dates to be announced next month. Geva’s original season opener was to be Sept. 1 and a musical comedy about air-guitar competitors, “Airness.”

Three of the remaining five shows were on the original schedule, although the specific dates are yet to be announced. “The Real James Bond… Was Dominican,” about a young boy who discovers that the inspiration behind the Ian Fleming spy was Porfirio Rubirosa, international playboy and man of mystery, will be staged in February/March. “Yoga Play,” a comedy about cultural appropriation and the search for authenticity amid the commercialization of self-enlightenment, will be May/June. And “Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash,” Cash’s life story, and more than two dozen Cash classics, will be June/July.

Cuddy said at the time of the original announcements that Geva was intent on presenting shows that address social issues of the moment, and the two new additions seem to do just that. The January/February staging of “Where Did We Sit on the Bus?” is a contemporary hip-hop driven autobiographical one-man show by Brian Quijada, exploring Latinx life in the midst of a Black and white society. And May’s “Wine in the Wilderness,” set in the 1964 Harlem race riots, is by the acclaimed Black writer and actor Alice Childress.

The five live shows will be presented on the more spacious of Geva’s two stages, the Wilson Stage, and will be presented live under social-distancing guidelines.

In a press release announcing the new schedule, Executive Director Christopher Mannelli said, “At the core of what we do is the celebration of the human experience. In next year’s season we are proud to bring stories on our stage that will inspire and entertain all of the Rochester community.”

All four “Recognition Radio” pieces will count as the first two shows for Geva season subscribers. Subscriptions for the full 2020-21 season are on sale now at Show dates and single-ticket sales will be made available as coronavirus pandemic guidelines are adjusted.

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