Rourke and executive producer Kate Pakenham also announced today a new ticket scheme sponsored by Barclays, which will see two-thirds of the Donmar's front row seats made available for £10.
Julius Caesar, which opens the season on 4 December 2012 (previews from 29 November), will star Frances Barber as Caesar, Harriet Walter as Brutus, Jenny Jules as Cassisus, Cush Jumbo as Mark Anthony, Jade Anouka as Calpurnia and Clare Dunne as Portia.
Speaking to Whatsonstage.com, Rourke stressed that the production is not a “direct response” to the proliferation of all-male Shakespeare stagings, but is part of an “ongoing cultural conversation” about the number of classical roles available to older women.
“Once you get past 40 you can do a Beatrice, a Volumnia, or maybe a couple of parts in the Histories, but that’s about it,” she said. “We have all these amazing classical actresses but there’s so little left in the canon for them to do.”
Phyllida Lloyd was last at the Donmar in 2005 when she directed Mary Stuart, which won the 2006 South Bank Show Theatre Award and later transferred to the West End and Broadway. Since then she has found success on the big screen with the 2008 smash hit adaptation of Mamma Mia! (having directed the original stage production) and Oscar-winning Margaret Thatcher biopic The Iron Lady.
Joe Wright directs ‘love letter to actors’
Julius Caesar, which runs until 9 February 2013, is followed by Joe Wright’s production of Trelawny of the Wells, which opens on 26 February 2013 (previews from 15 February) and continues to 13 April 2013.
Wright, whose film directing credits include Pride and Prejudice, Atonement and Anna Karenina, is the son of Little Angel Theatre founders John and Lyndie Wright, though has never before directed for the stage.
Rourke said of the production: “It feels very apt that having grown up in a theatre... Joe should be directing Trelawny of the Wells, as it's a play set in that corner of London, and a love letter to actors and life in the theatre.”
Pinero’s 1898 play centres on a Victorian actress who renounces her love of theatre in order to marry an aristocrat. His family are less convinced of her charms, however, and her challenge to their dreary, snobby existence shocks them to their core.
Rounding off the season, from 25 April to 8 June 2013 (previews from 18 April), is Rourke’s own revival of Conor McPherson’s The Weir.
The multi award-winning play, which sees a group of Irish men tell ghost stories in order to impress a young woman, premiered to great acclaim in 1997 but hasn’t since received a major London revival.
Speaking to Whatsonstage.com, Josie Rourke said: "The Weir made a huge impression on me when I saw it 15 years ago; it absolutely crystalised my ambition to work in theatre. So I'm hugely excited that Conor has allowed me to revive it - I'm very aware of how many people haven't seen it and the idea of that play in that space is really interesting."
Tickets for a tenner
Alongside the new season, Rourke and the Donmar's executive producer Kate Pakenham have also announced a new audience initiative – Barclays Front Row, supported by the company’s long-term principal sponsor.
It will see two thirds of venue's front row seats across both the stalls and circle be held back for all performances, and put on sale every Monday for the week of performances two weeks later. These tickets are priced at £10 only, with no booking fee.
The first set of tickets for Julius Caesar will go on sale via all the usual routes - telephone, online and in person - on 19 November. The 20 standing places will continue to be sold as day seats from the box office on the day of the performance.
"I'm really proud of my team who have worked so hard to put this scheme together" said Rourke. "We wanted to do something that reflected people's lives in London, so as well as being a fantastic deal, as well as being an offer that allows people to plan a bit in advance. The aim is to change the 'closed' sign on the Donmar door to say 'open'."