Brightening up the Rhode Island winter will be the second annual Providence New Play Festival, keyed by brand new works from Kathleen Tolan and Marlane Meyer. Trinity Repertory hosts the Festival -- which runs Jan. 29-April 26 -- and chose the winning plays.
Tolan's play, A Girl's Life, looks at a semi-typical 1990s household: two working parents, and an angst-ridden teen daughter. Not only is 17 year-old Jen dating a 22-year-old boy, she has imaginary visits from Thomas Aquinas, Louis Pasteur and St. Catherine. Other Tolan works include A Weekend Near Madison, Digging To China and Approximating Mother. Life, directed by Barry Edelstein, runs Feb. 27-March 22.
Meyer's The Chemistry of Change takes a wildly comic look at a misfit 1950s family visited by a carnival worker who operates "the hell hole." Trinity Rep plans to produce the show on its mainstage, pending rights availability. Other works include Kingfish, Etta Jenks and Moe's Lucky Seven. Chemistry runs April 3-26.
Rebecca Hart stars, alongside William Damkoeler, Nigel Gore, Chris Roeblee, Sharon Ambielli, Bianca DiSarro and Ellen McLaughlin (Angels in America).
Recently added to the Festival is Nicholas Kent's Srebrenica (March 8-21), directed by Trinity artistic director Oskar Eustis. The text is shaped from testimony at the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal regarding the slaughter of Moslems committed by the Bosnian-Serbs in 1995. Four witnesses testify in the drama: a UN investigator, the Dutch peace keeping commanding officer, a Dutch soldier, and a former Bosnian soldier. Funded by the Chace Fund and Steinberg Charitable Trust, the Festival aims to give patrons "a closer view of the playwriting process and the world of American theatre." Besides the two Trinity Rep productions, the festival will also present the two-weekend "Steinberg Festival of New Plays," featuring works by Brown University graduate students.
Last year's New Play Festival winners, Anthony Clarvoe's Ambition Facing West and Paula Vogel's The Mineola Twins, were both nominated for American Theatre Critics Association new play awards.
For Festival Passes ($20-$45) and other information on the Providence New Play and Steinberg Fests, call (401) 521-1100.
Directors and casts have still to be set, but here's the line-up of productions for the rest of Trinity Rep's season, after A Girl's Life and The Chemistry of Change.
* Meredith Willson's musical, The Music Man (April 24-May 31). When salesman/con-man Harold Hill arrives at a small town, he easily dupes the citizens into buying band uniforms but doesn't count on the resistance he receives from Marian, a bookish librarian. Songs in the 1957 smash include "Till There Was You," "Seventy-Six Trombones" and "Gary, Indiana."
Said artistic director Eustis, who will stage the piece, "The Music Man is about art created without experts. From the Charleston to the Lindy Hop to break-dancing to hip-hop, from barbershop quartets to doo wop, from jazz to rock -- America's indigenous art forms have all sprung from the streets, from people without experts creating their own culture." Eustis said he will work with local high school bands and barbershop singing groups in developing the show.
* Paula Vogel's How I Learned To Drive. Awards keep accruing for this tragicomic story of a young girl's unhealthy relationship with her alcoholic uncle. (The most recent was Trinity Rep's own Pell Award for outstanding contribution to the arts by a Rhode Island resident.) The play is currently Off-Broadway at the Century Center Theatre in a Vineyard Theatre production. (May-June)
"The...season is an exciting blend of well-loved classics and the best and newest of the American theatre," artistic director Eustis has said. Not only is Trinity Rep excited about the current season, the theatre's proud of the year gone by: Single ticket sales increased by more than 30 percent, with subscription income rising 11 percent to nearly $1 million. This helped balance the theatre's budget by the June 30 end of fiscal.
Also new is an alliance with the cafe/gallery/performance space AS220, wherein college students can see a Trinity Rep show and the AS220 comedy troupe "Improv Jones," all for just $10. It's a way to encourage college students to become more involved with local theatre.
For information on Trinity Rep's 34th season (subscriptions start at $48) , call the Providence-based theatre at (401) 351-4242.
-- By David Lefkowitz