[These plays] are about the need to talk, the need to listen, the need for theatre, and the need to be in the same room together … It is also my hope that they are about the need to know, in some small and even some bigger ways, that we are not alone.
— Richard Nelson
As TimeLine prepares to open The Apple Family Plays today, I’m delighted to finally be able to introduce you to the Apple Family.
Playwright Richard Nelson has created something unlike anything else I can recall in the American theater. Starting in 2010, he began crafting one play each year over the course of four years, using the same characters and one setting, a home in Rhinebeck, New York. Each play is set on the day it premiered: the 2010 midterm election, the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the 2012 presidential election, and the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
The Apple Family Plays are simple in structure—a family gathers around a dining room table. But as The New York Times noted, they locate, “as no other works of theater have, the intersection of public events and private lives … how world events are refracted and reflected in our own living and dining rooms in ways we’re not always aware.”
Richard has said that these plays “are about the need to talk, the need to listen, the need for theatre, and the need to be in the same room together … It is also my hope that they are about the need to know, in some small and even some bigger ways, that we are not alone.”
This lovely sentiment gets at the heart of TimeLine’s mission and why we started this theatre in 1997. We always aim to ignite discussion about how the past and present connect—on both a personal and political level.
We’ve chosen to present the plays that are set on election days—That Hopey Changey Thing in 2010 and Sorry in 2012—as the family discussion shifts between issues of national and personal importance, like so many of us find ourselves doing on a daily basis. You have the opportunity to see either or both plays, in whichever order you choose. There may be advantages to seeing them in sequential order, and I believe that the more time you spend with the Apples, the richer the experience can be. But each play stands on its own as a provocative and stirring event.
I had the immense pleasure of seeing all four plays over two days, in order, at New York’s Public Theater in 2013. Among the many things I marveled at was the dynamic among the cast. Most had played their roles over multiple years as the plays were developed and premiered, and the history and genuine bond among them was palpable.
TimeLine is putting much of our own family on stage together. Five TimeLine Company Members in the cast is more than any previous production in our 18-year history! And we’re thrilled to welcome the extraordinary Mike Nussbaum to TimeLine for the first time, all under the direction of our long-time colleague, TimeLine Associate Artist Louis Contey.
In the fourth and final installment of the Apple Family Plays (Regular Singing) the series concludes with the character of Barbara turning to the audience and saying: “And so we live. Sometimes we come together. Something brings us together. And some days we are alone. But it’s those days together that remind us why we live. Or, maybe it is—how. How—we live.”
After years of admiring Richard Nelson’s ambitious creation, we’re honored to come together in TimeLine’s theater and the Apple’s dining room. I hope you will join us, and I look forward to the conversation that ensues.