Recent productions at Connecticut Repertory Theatre have included Dancing At Lughnasa, Big River and Picasso at the Lapin Agile. Appealing choices, but not exactly home-grown.
Now CRT is making an effort to bring new plays to to the fore. Under the direction of Susan V. Booth, director of New Play Development at Chicago's Goodman Theatre, Connecticut Rep has initiated the CRT Playwrights' Lab, to workshop and develop a series of new plays every summer. Not only will the Lab work in conjunction with the University of Connecticut's theatre department, but plays will be generally selected once another theatre has already expressed interest in eventually producing it.
Plays selected for the Lab's inaugural year of public readings include:
Migdalia Cruz's Vishnu's Song (commissioned by CRT), about the effects of war on children. In the piece, the Hindu god Vishnu comes down and visits neighborhoods from Tibet to the South Bronx. David Esbjornson, former artistic director of NY's Classic Stage Company, directs the reading (July 11-12).
Ellen Lewis' Eastville, about a white ex-Quaker and a black ex-slave who find themselves holding Harriet Tubman hostage. Susan V. Booth directs the reading, July 17-25.
Gina Gionfriddo's U.S. Drag, a comedy about two women in Manhattan, circa 2001, who join a watchdog group on the lookout for a dangerous neighborhood lunatic. Anna Shapiro, director of Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre New Play Lab, stages the piece, July 10-11. Florence Hackman's solo, Signals Never Heard, about poet Edna St. Vincent Millay and her life as an outsider. Darci Picoult directs, June 28.
Jeffrey Hatcher's Sockdology, about what really happened backstage at the Ford's Theatre the night Lincoln was shot. Hatcher's other plays include The Turn of the Screw and Three Viewings. Greg Leaming will stage the readings June 26-27.
CRT is also talking with the Goodman and CT's Long Wharf Theatre about other Lab projects.
[For more information on Vishnu's Dream, please see the news story, "Connecticut Rep Commissions Cruz For Kids & Carnage Drama."]
CRT artistic director Gary M. English said of coordinator Booth, "Susan is an insightful artist and a valued collaborator...she has her finger on the pulse of virtually all new play development activity in this country."
Booth is currently co-artistic director of Chicago's Theatre on the Lake series.
Previous world premieres at CRT include 1994's Open Window by Brad Korbesmeyer, and 1996's Stages by Tania L. Katan.
For tickets ($10 per show) and information on the Playwrights' Lab series call (860) 486-4226. Be warned that the space is not air-conditioned, so dress comfortably.
Meanwhile, CRT's Nutmeg Summer Series continues with Over Here!, directed by B. Peter Westerhoff, June 26-July 11.
-- By David Lefkowitz