A historic first for Salt Lake Acting Company: Women will direct all 6 shows in its 2019-20 season

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune file photo) Salt Lake Acting Company's annual production of "Saturday's Voyeur" will close out the company's 2019-2020 season. Here, actors Jillian Joy, CJ Strong, Emile Starr and Cassandra Stokes-Wylie, from left to right, perform in the 2017 version.

It didn’t exactly happen on purpose, but Salt Lake Acting Company is doing something in its 2019-2020 season it hasn’t done in its 47-year history: having women direct all the plays in a season.

“When I read a play, I think, ‘This would be good for [this director], or for [that director],” said Cynthia Fleming, SLAC’s artistic director. “This time, [the slate] kind of lended itself to all female directors.”

Throughout the theater industry, Fleming said, “Women have just started being directors in the last 10 years. On Broadway, it’s very recent. Most plays are directed by men.”

(Photos courtesy Salt Lake Acting Company) These six women will direct the six plays to be produced in Salt Lake Acting Company's 2019-2020 season. Top row, from left: Alexandra Harbold, Melissa Crespo and Penelope Caywood; bottom row: Nancy Borgenicht, Shannon Musgrave and Cynthia Fleming.

Since many of this year’s plays — like the opener “Death of a Driver,” the adolescent drama “Form of a Girl Unknown” and the comic sequel “A Doll’s House, Part 2” — have female characters at their centers, Fleming said, having a woman director to find the voices for those plays was a natural choice.

With many contemporary plays, the ones SLAC usually produces, “the playwrights are reflecting what’s going on,” Fleming said. “There’s a lot of darkness, but through that darkness there’s a lot of light. … I try to choose plays that illuminate. Plays that lift and gather and see an awareness of humanity, and also believe in humanity.”

Orders for season tickets are being taken now. Single tickets will go on sale Aug. 26.

Here are the six plays in SLAC’s 2019-20 season:

Sept. 11-Oct. 20 “Death of a Driver,” playwright Will Snider’s political drama about an American engineer in Kenya who gets involved when her driver is arrested over a local election dispute. Alexandra Harbold directs the Utah premiere of the play, which was workshopped at SLAC’s Playwright’s Lab last year. “It’s very suspenseful and funny and smart,” Fleming said.

Oct. 16-Nov. 17 • The world premiere of Charly Evan Simpson’s “Form of a Girl Unknown,” the story of 12-year-old Amali, navigating adolescence and her fascinations with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” her changing body, and a story of children killed in the woods. Fleming calls the play “extremely theatrical.” Simpson received a David Ross Fetzer Foundation Emerging Artist grant, which allowed her to workshop the play at SLAC last year. The director, Melissa Crespo, is making her debut with SLAC; she has worked in the past with the New York theater groups Are Nova and Atlantic Theatre Company.

Dec. 6-30 “Pete the Cat,” SLAC’s annual children’s theater production, is adapted by Sarah Hammond and Will Aronson from the popular children’s book series by James and Kimberly Dean and Eric Litwin. The story finds Pete, the always cool cat, being sent to live with the Biddle family, and connecting with Jimmy Biddle, “the most organized second grader on planet Earth.” Penelope Caywood, who helmed last season’s production of “Pinkalicious!”, directs the production. When students attending “Pinkalicious!” were surveyed about their favorite books to adapt into plays, “Pete the Cat” was at the top of the list, Fleming said.

Feb. 5-March 8, 2020 “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” Lucas Hnath’s comic “sequel” to Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 classic, starts with Nora returning 15 years after she famously slammed the door shut on her repressed former life. Though set in the 1890s, Fleming said, “it’s looking through the lens of our eyes right now — the #MeToo lens.” Nancy Borgenicht, co-writer of SLAC’s annual “Saturday’s Voyeur” musical, directs the play’s Utah premiere.

April 8-May 10, 2020 • Sarah Ruhl’s comedy “How to Transcend a Happy Marriage,” features a New Year’s Eve dinner party held by two married couples that is upended when a mysterious woman and her two lovers join the festivities. Ruhl, Fleming said, is “bringing this magical realism in theater, going to places that are beyond the four walls.” Shannon Musgrove, SLAC’s associate artistic director, will direct the production.

June 17-Aug. 23, 2020 • SLAC’s summer tradition, “Saturday’s Voyeur,” returns for its 42nd year of musically lampooning Utah culture. Allan Nevins and Nancy Borgenicht are the writers, as always, and Fleming will direct the show.