The play, about the relationship between a son and his mother, before and after her death, proved the breakout critical success of the annual festival, which concluded April 10. Talks have since commenced between the playwright's agent and several commercial and nonprofit producers in New York. A decision as to the play's Manhattan future is expected within a week.
A success at the Humana Festival can often send a play on the road to national exposure. The standout work of the 2003 festival, Omnium Gatherum by Theresa Rebeck and Alexandra Gersten-Vassilaros, was speeded to Off-Broadway, where it opened last fall. It was recently cited as a nominee for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize.
After Ashley was originally commissioned by Philadelphia Theatre Company and was supported by a residency and public staged readings at the 2003 O'Neill Playwrights Conference of the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center. The play was described by Humana thusly: "Three years after his mother's murder, 17-year-old Justin can barely function. His father, on the other hand, has written a best-selling book about the crime and scored his own cable television talk show. America may be ready for a mega-marketing blitz of Justin's murdered mom, but he isn't. A satire that takes on our media's obsession with victims and violence in a penetrating fashion."
The Louisville production, directed by Marc Masterson, starred Carla Harting, Jesse Hooker and Stephen Barker Turner.
Gina Gionfriddo has received the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and the Helen Merrill Award for Emerging Playwrights. In addition to After Ashley, her work includes Safe (Humana Festival Anthology, 2003), U.S. Drag (Connecticut Repertory Company, Clubbed Thumb, NY, published in "Women Playwrights: The Best Plays of 2002") and Guinevere (O'Neill Playwrights Conference).