In addition to the announced Sundance Lab works, program artistic director Philip Himberg also revealed to Playbill.com that the Sundance Institute has established a New York City office, and is working to aid in the establishment of a new writers' lab in Africa.
"It's sort of an experiment to see if being near where the majority of our constituents live and work will make us even more effective in what we do," Himberg explained of Sundance's new East Coast presence. "Even though we consider ourselves a national program, there's just no denying that New York is the heart of new work in this country. It allows me the opportunity to see more work and also to meet with people who are finalists for the Lab and to talk about the work and make sure they're the right match for us… I think we're going to have our space in New York for the foreseeable season or two."
The annual Sundance Lab, which offers artists the chance to develop work away from press and industry buzz, will continue to reside at the Sundance Resort in Utah. "I think one of the values of Sundance, is our ability to take people out of their urban familiar environment and the work actually does better because of that," Himberg said. The Institute's New York presence is part of Sundance's ongoing goal to provide year-round support for post-Lab artists, or what Himberg refers to as "Sundance 911."
Sundance is also expanding its global reach, as work begins to establish a new East Africa Lab, which focuses on artists hailing primarily from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania. The lab will not be run by Sundance, according to Himberg, but associates are currently scouting a location on the island of Lamu off Kenya, to house and organize the African-led lab that will nurture the work of local artists.
It was the work of Rwandan playwright Odile Gakire Katese that caught the eye of Sundance associates when she served as an artist in residence during the 2008 Lab. Katese was invited to return for the 2009 Sundance Lab and will present her work Ngwino Ubeho. For the 2009 Sundance Lab in Utah, Rebecca Taichman will direct the post-Rwandan genocide work which Himberg describes as "a story of how the Rwandans are moving forward with hope and optimism and unity into the future after this horrendous period. It's in no way a historical drama, or reiterates the horror of the genocide. It's in fact a story of the human spirit and how one can have hope and actual vision for a future in this country." Ngwino Ubeho, or Come and Be Alive, will incorporate two African artists (choreographer and musician), playwright Katese and four American artists for the Sundance Lab.
Obie-winnier Taylor Mac will participate in the 2009 Lab with his ambitious work The Lily's Revenge. David Drake is set to direct a selection from the seven-hour epic that aims to incorporate some 47 actors. Structured after the five-piece Japanese Noh drama, Sundance will develop the second act of Lily's Revenge that is part Noh drama, part verse play and part vaudeville. The work about an uprooted flower who sets out to battle her oppressors includes music by Mac and will also include puppetry. A full-production of Lily's Revenge is on the bill for HERE Arts Center in Manhattan in October.
Tony Award-winning actor Denis O'Hare (Take Me Out, Assassins) and director Lisa Peterson (The Poor Itch) are at work on the solo-actor piece, An Iliad, an adaptation of Homer's epic war poem for the 2009 Lab. Partly a new translation and partly an improvised piece, O'Hare will portray a itinerant poet who enters a tavern and begins to weave the classic tale. The work is also on the bill for the Seattle Repertory Theatre in April 2010.
Also set for the Lab is Chicago-based playwright Carlos Murillo's Diagram of a Paper Airplane, which has been commissioned by the Goodman Theatre. Murillo returns to Sundance after 11 years with a new noir-ish investigation of a deceased once-visionary playwright who sends individual pages of his final work to members of his estranged family and friends, ultimately prompting them to reunite for a reading of the masterwork.
The final entry will be from writer-in-residence David Cale who will present his new solo piece Palomino. The work is a Rashomon-like tale where the central character becomes a different person in each scene, imparting the story of an Irish carriage driver in Central Park who moonlights as an escort for wealthy women. Cale will also present another yet-to-be-named piece for Sundance during the 2009 Lab.
The 2009 Sundance Lab will run July 7-22 at the Sundance Resort in Utah. Complete casting will be announced at a later date.
Dramaturgs for the 2009 Lab include Sundance Mame Hunt, Roberta Levitow and Janice Paran. Creative advisors include Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage (Ruined, Intimate Apparel) and Berkeley Rep artistic director Tony Taccone (Wishful Drinking).
For further information visit Sundance.