Soho Rep, a 65-seat Off Off Broadway theater in Lower Manhattan, has always been a home for experimental, formally inventive work. But a play in its new season is beyond anything one of the company’s three directors, Meropi Peponides, ever thought it would be able to support: A Bengali-English play.
“I could not have imagined in my wildest dreams when I started working at Soho Rep that that would be something we would ever be able to produce,” Peponides said. “It’s so 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 theater’s 2022-23 season, which is set to run 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 directs the theater alongside Sarah Benson and Cynthia Flowers. “We commit to an idea when it’s still an idea and develop it all the way through to production.”
First up is Kate Tarker’s “Montag” (Oct. 12-Nov. 13), a play about female friendship set in a basement apartment in a small German town near an American military base. The production, which is set to be directed by Dustin Wills (“Wolf Play”), is described as a “domestic thriller, a sleep-deprivation comedy and a rebellion celebration under threat of annihilation.”
It will be followed by Chowdhury’s bilingual “Public Obscenities” (Feb. 15-March 26, 2023), which originated during his time as a member of Project Number One. The production is a co-commission and coproduction with the National Asian American Theater Company’s National Partnership Project. It tells the story of a queer studies doctoral student who returns to his family home in Kolkata, India, with his Black American boyfriend and makes an unexpected discovery. Chowdhury will also direct.
Closing out the season is “The Whitney Album” (May 24-July 2, 2023). The play, by Jillian Walker (who also participated in 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 returns, with its third class, 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 a new job.