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Jo McDougall’s ‘Towns Facing Railroads’ makes world premiere on Rep’s Second Stage.

Arkansas-native poet Jo McDougall drew from several of her books to create the drama “Towns Facing Railroads,” which will have its world premiere at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s Second Stage on Friday, Jan. 20.

The play will run through Feb. 5 on the Rep’s smaller box, situated on its second-floor level. The Second Stage seats about 100 people. It’s where the Rep staged the award-winning “Wit” in 2000, and “Towns Facing Railroads” is the Rep’s first Second Stage play of this season. Its Main Stage will be the setting for “Crowns,” opening Jan. 27.

“We’ve been working to bring Jo McDougall’s work to the stage for the past three years,” Robert Hupp, the Rep’s producing artistic director, said. “There is something inherently dramatic in her poems; the characters just seem to jump off the page.”

Eve Adamson, founder and former artistic director of Jean Cocteau Repertory in New York City, will direct a cast of three: Joseph Graves, who most recently starred in the Rep’s “Of Mice and Men” and has appeared in five other Rep productions; Nancy Eyermann, who is making her Rep debut, and JoAnn Johnson, who starred in “Wit” on the Second Stage.

Adamson has directed “All My Sons,” “Othello” and “All the King’s Men” at the Rep.

Eyermann has been directed by both Adamson and Graves as Lady Macbeth in “MacBeth,” Miranda in “The Tempest” and Regan in “King Lear,” all at the Texas Shakespeare Festival. Along with “Wit,” Johnson has appeared at the Rep in “You Can’t Take It With You” and with Graves in “All My Sons.”

McDougall, who was raised near DeWitt, now lives in Kansas City. She drew from such books as “Towns Facing Railroads,” “The Woman in the Next Booth,” “From Darkening Porches,” “Dirt” and “Satisfied With Havoc” to develop a play that examines the highs and lows of people who live in small towns. Among her many awards are DeWitt Wallace/Reader’s Digest Writing Award, an Academy of American Poets award, fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Arkansas Arts Council and the Porter Prize for Arkansas Literature.

Mike Nichols’ set will include a curving railroad track that cuts across the stage.

Showtimes are 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Wednesday. Friday’s opening night show will include a post-show reception with the cast in the Rep lobby. The Jan. 25 performance will be signed for the hearing impaired. Free preshow readings by McDougall are scheduled an hour before curtain time on Jan. 22, Jan. 26 and Jan. 29 in the Rep’s Club Mezz on the second floor.

All seats are $20. Call 378-0405, 866-684-3737 or visit the Rep’s website at www.therep.org.

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