Last May, WaterTower Theatre announced its 2016-17 season lineup, which culminated with a production of Stephen Sondheim’s musical Sunday in the Park with George. But the company’s newly-appointed artistic director, Joanie Schultz, has made her first major course-correction, and it’s a doozie: On the heals of Moonlight‘s historic victory at the Oscars, she has revealed that she will be replacing Sunday with a production of the play Hit the Wall, which tells the story of the Stonewall Riots that sparked the modern gay rights movement.
Described as a “play with music,” the rock-propelled historical epic — written by Ike Holter with music by Dan Lipton — was first produced in Chicago (Holter’s home base) at the Steppenwolf Theatre in 2012; Schultz came to North Texas from Chicago earlier this year. She will also direct the production.
Set at the famed Christopher Street bar on June 27 and 28, 1969 — just after queer icon Judy Garland died — Hit the Wall follows a fierce collection of friends and strangers, allies and antagonists, as they party, mourn and eventually rebel in rioting that brought national attention to the oppression of LGBT people and began the “Pride” movement. Among those profiled: A black drag queen, a funny gay couple, a homophobic cop and a butch lesbian, as well as others.
“I’m proud to be directing this inspiring plat as my first production at WaterTower,” Schultz said. The piece “captures the spirit of a movement.”
It’s a clarion choice for Schultz, who is an unknown quantity for most theatergoers in North Texas. It certainly signals her commitment to diverse and edgy work by and about black, gay, radical subjects and artists. (Holter himself is gay and African-American.)
Ironically, in an interview last year with Playbill, Holter identified his favorite artist of all time as… Stephen Sondheim.
The production will run from July 28–Aug. 20. Tickets (which range from $20–$40, plus a pay-what-you-can performance) can be purchased here.