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For many people outside the state, that tune from The Music Man is about the only connection Indiana has to mainstream theatre. Of course, locals know better, and now the Indiana Rep is trying to change that perception with the first-ever Indianapolis Theatre Festival, running Mar. 5-May 16 at various Indianapolis venues.
Among the playwrights expected to attend are Jeffrey Hatcher, Susan Miller, Syl Jones and Dr. Endesha Ida Mae Holland. They and others will attend a free symposium on "Contemporary American Playwrights" (March 29). Opening the Festival is an Artistic Directors' Forum (March 5), with Indiana Rep, the Phoenix Theatre, Edyvean Rep, American Cabaret Theatre and Theatre on the Square represented.
(Though Hatcher won't have a play running in Indianapolis during the Festival, he's been commissioned by Indianapolis' Phoenix Theatre to write a play for Feb. 1999.)
As for plays in the fest, those include Christopher Durang's Durang/Durang (Mar. 5-29 at Phoenix); Holland's From The Mississippi Delta (Mar. 13-29, at Edyvean); Claude McNeal's Rockspell (Mar. 5-Apr. 25; ACT); Miller's Nasty Rumors And Final Remarks (Mar. 20-Apr. 4; Theatre on the Square); Syl Jones' Rosa's Children: A Play About Rosa Parks, The Mother of Us All (March 31-May 3 at Indiana Rep) and Charles Smith's Les Trois Dumas (a world premiere, Apr. 21-May 16 at Indiana Rep). Visitors can buy a $30 passport, which entitles them to see two of the above plays. Those hoping to make the most of the Festival's offerings in the least amount of time are advised to try for the weekend of Mar. 27 29.
Asked about the Festival, spokesperson Sue Stevens (of Indiana Rep) told Playbill On-Line (Feb. 24), "The not-for-profit League of Professionally Managed Theatres, which sponsors the event, has been doing a lot of promotional activity the past couple of years, so the idea of doing a Festival has been on the back-burner for a long time. With the world premiere of Charles Smith's Les Trois Dumas and other new plays happening around the same time, this seemed like an ideal situation."
Asked about future plans for the Fest, Stevens said, "I figure it'll be a bi- annual thing or every couple of years, with a different theme each time. Perhaps we'll be doing American classics, or Arthur Miller plays, or non- American plays. It'll take a different focus."
For more information about the Indianapolis Theatre Festival call (317) 635-5252.
-- By David Lefkowitz