With the exception of disputed coin tosses in pro football and extreme debate clubs, the stage remains the only venue where arguments are regularly settled with a sword fight. Behold a dramatic settling of differences with today's Groupon: for $99, you get one premier ticket to any four productions during the 2011–2012 season at TheatreWorks (up to a $224.60 value). Performances are held at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts and at the Lucie Stern Community Theatre in Palo Alto.
For more than four decades, TheatreWorks has commissioned and staged new works alongside acclaimed plays and musicals from Broadway and beyond. Running until the end of December, Tony Award–winning The Secret Garden employs musical numbers to lift the classic novel of an orphaned young girl from the bookshelf into ultrarealistic, carbon-based 3-D. Another great novel forms the basis for Of Mice and Men, which transports the audience to a ranch during the Great Depression.
Penned by the writer of Billy Elliot, The Pitmen Painters comically relates the inspiring story of 1930s miners-turned-artists, and the West Coast premiere of off-Broadway jewel Now Circa Then shows the reality of a couple's relationship through their own dabbling in historical reenactment, raising the question of whether a single relationship can ever have room for two Robert E. Lees. Finally, Wheelhouse sends the season rocking to a close as an aging band tries to hold it together on tour in a downgraded Winnebago.
Originally founded in 1970 to give high-school and college students a chance to hone their onstage skills, TheatreWorks dedicated itself early on to promoting new work that grappled with America's changing social landscape. Exploring the experiences of ethnic and cultural minorities, the group built a following throughout the subsequent decades, growing to its present size of 41 permanent staffers, an annual budget of $7 million, and 8,000 subscribers. Its New Works Initiative continues to seek out up-and-coming voices from around the country, helping new playwrights find their footing and prompting embittered older writers to test new pseudonyms.