The Amazing Criswell had it easy. That suave, self-styled–and frequently inaccurate–psychic of the 1950s, immortalized in Plan 9 From Outer Space and Tim Burton’s 1994 biopic Ed Wood, could easily afford to soulfully stare into the cameras and predict the end of the world. (For those who missed it, happened on Aug. 18, 1999.) Since Criswell King was already 61 years old when he made the prediction, do the math: The humbug (and former L.A. weatherman) wasn’t exactly expecting to still be in circulation when he was proven wrong.

On the other hand, I plan to actually outlive most of the shows listed in this collection of future facts–which is what any season preview worth its salt is, after all. It’s not just a list of dates, names and locations: It’s a series of predictions. The hottest companies, the most successful work, the season’s most important shows: all about to be revealed here, before your eyes, months before some of them are even cast. Predicted, in short. So without further ado, ladies and gentlemen: the future.

Begin with the new. Local hero Terrence Mann’s nascent Carolina Arts Festival is ostensibly an out-of-town (that is, New York) staging platform for projects like his new musical version of Romeo and Juliet. But it scores one of the first theatrical coups of the season this week with The Guys, Anne Nelson’s by-now famous two-character tribute to Sept. 11. (Kennedy Theater, BTI Center, Sept. 11 & 12).

Though Archipelago Theater’s output has been uneven in recent years, director Ellen Hemphill and Jungian analyst Nor Hall have made metaphorical theatrical magic together on more than one occasion. In their production of Snow in 2000, a group of people cut off from civilization negotiated their common bonds in an allegorical cave of ice. This time, it’s a waterless island of salt five characters find themselves on, one inhabited by an enigmatic old woman and her boatman. Symbolism, anyone? And Mary Wept plays Sheafer Theater, Duke University, Sept. 25-Oct. 5.

Meanwhile, those trash-with-flash purveyors at Dog & Pony Show finally get around to staging their first full season, with an emphasis on the history of sex. The nightcap on the Sept. 28 edition of PEEP, their burlesque and vaudeville revue at Manbites Dog Theatre, will be a staged reading of Sodom by 17th-century libertine John Wilmot, the Second Earl of Rochester. In November, it’s La Ronde, the 1921 play David Hare adapted (and Nicole Kidman disrobed in) as The Blue Room (Manbites Dog, Nov. 14-23).

By contrast, the Deep Dish Theater contingent at Chapel Hill’s University Mall takes the higher road with similar material: Pierre Carlet de Chamblain de Marivaux’s 1730 romantic comedy, The Game of Love and Chance (Nov. 7-23).

And though John Murphy and Jordan Smith have apparently done this sort of thing before, they’re reviving Ghost and Spice Productions for an intriguing season at the Carrboro ArtsCenter, including Educating Rita (through Sept. 22), Bite the Hand and Final Placement (Oct. 6-13), The Subject Was Roses (Nov. 3-17), and The Road to Nirvana (Dec. 1-15).

In further developments, on the face of things Your Mother’s Butt isn’t the title of a play one would traditionally associate with Raleigh’s conservative Peace College. But Kenny Gannon’s staging it, along with three other edgy one-act plays by Six Feet Under and American Beauty screenwriter Alan Ball, in Leggett Theatre, Sept. 18-23.

Meanwhile, our friends at Theater in the Park must be feeling fairly confident about artistic director Ira David Wood III’s work in the title role of the upcoming Barrymore (Sept. 13-29). They’re screening two of John Barrymore’s greatest films, Grand Hotel and Svengali, during the run at the theater, on two consecutive nights (Sept. 17 & 18).

What do you make of the fact that James Joyce, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, and Tristan Tzara–the great-grandaddy of the Dada movement–all lived in Zurich in 1916? Playwright Tom Stoppard made the farce, Travesties, in 1975. We’ll see what ingenious director Rebecca Holderness and the Burning Coal Theatre Company make of it when it starts their 2002 season (at Kennedy Theater, BTI Center, Oct. 3-20). After that, the Coals revisit the chaos of Dublin in the 1920s with Juno and the Paycock, Sean O’Casey’s 1925 play about the early Troubles, Dec. 5-22.

And what if Love’s Labours Lost was actually a tale about the second coming of teen lust and angst among a group of 55-and-overs? That’s Jay O’Berski’s intriguing premise in Shakespeare and Originals’ upcoming production of the work with Marsha Edmundson, Tom Marriott and Jordan Smith at Manbites Dog (Oct. 10-28). Intertextuality fiends may be assured of a significantly different take on the same title when Shenandoah Shakespeare Express brings it to NCSU Center Stage (Stewart Theater, Nov. 14).

Those in search of music on stage have a number of options in the near future. The musical archivists at North Carolina Theater present A Chorus Line in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium (Sept. 13-22), before Broadway Series South brings the touring version of Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida there, Oct. 23-Nov. 3. Long Leaf Opera surprises us with a production of Kurt Weill’s Lost in the Stars at Durham’s Carolina Theatre, Oct. 4-6. And Meredith College courageously takes on Stephen Sondheim’s Follies (Jones Auditorium, Oct. 23-27).

In Chapel Hill, Playmakers Repertory presents the premiere of Sunrise in My Pocket: The Comical, Tragical, True History of Davy Crockett (Oct. 16-Nov. 10), before decanting Proof, David Auburn’s Pulitzer Prize-winning meditation on love, family bonds, eccentricity–and higher mathematics (Nov. 27-Dec. 22).

And once again, Raleigh Ensemble Players takes a high-powered flashlight into the darkness with Show and Tell, an exploration of school-based violence in the aftermath of the Columbine High atrocity in Colorado (Oct. 17-26). Afterward, the UNC Greensboro-based Alliance for Students of Color mixes eyewitness accounts of a lynching in Omaha, Nebraska with uneasy song and dance in the controversial Minstrel Show: The Lynching of William Brown at Manbites Dog (Nov. 1-3).

Duke Drama explores Macbeth (in Sheafer Theater, Nov. 21-24), and NCSU’s University Theater takes August Wilson’s Jitney for a spin (Nov. 7-17). Before that, Raleigh Ensemble Players revives their summertime smash, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, appropriately enough, on Halloween weekend (Oct. 31-Nov. 2).

It’s heartening to note that wünderkind Michael Quattlebaum’s Paint-In Consciousness Theater will be baffling audiences at Raleigh’s Artspace at least twice (Sep. 22, Nov. 8). Those seeking a stretch in a different direction are encouraged to investigate the Kyogen and Noh theater works Tied to a Pole and At The Hawk’s Well when Duke Institute of the Arts presents the Theatre of Yugen and Theatre Nohgaku, Sept. 17.

For a good scare, Sanford’s Temple Theatre channels The Woman in Black (Oct. 31-Nov. 17). For laughs, The Book of Liz at Actor’s Comedy Lab (Theater in the Park, Dec. 5-15). Those in the mood for a road trip are well-advised to check out Carlo Goldoni’s sexy comedy Mirandolina, the season opener at Greensboro’s Triad Stage (through Sept. 29).

In the words of Criswell King, “May God help us … in the future.” EndBlock