The 2000 Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville continues March 4 with the first performance of Alexandra Cunningham's No. 11 (Blue and White), about a private high school in Connecticut where one's looks and lacrosse skills are the measure of social status.
Golden boy Reid Callahan is 18, handsome, rich, athletic and popular. In a world where he has it all, he ends up taking whatever he wants. The drama is based on a true story.
Brian Mertes directs the play at the Bingham Theatre at Actors Theatre of Louisville. Connecticut-born playwright Cunningham is a playwright-in-residence at Juilliard. Cunningham graduated from Johns Hopkins University and Columbia University; at the latter she received the John Golden Award for Best Play. Her plays have been workshopped and produced at Columbia University, Juilliard, New Dramatists and New York Stage and Film.
The cast includes Blair Singer as Reid and Savannah Haske as his best friend, Alexandra, with Patrick Darragh, Patrick Dall'occhio, Christy Collier, Woodwyn Koons, Jessica Wortham, Shawna Joy Anderson, Lauren Klein and William McNulty.
Designers are Paul Owen (sets), Greg Sullivan (lights), Ben Hohman (props), Suttirat Larlarb (costumes) and Martin Desjardins (sound). Official opening is March 5.
The 24th Annual Humana Festival of New American Plays at ATL, a few blocks away from the middy Ohio River, will offer six full-length works, including Stephen Belber's Tape, War of the Worlds by Anne Bogart and Naomi Iizuka, Anton in Show Business by Jane Martin, Big Love by Charles L. Mee and Touch by Toni Press Coffman.
The annual festival, underwritten by the Humana Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the healthcare giant, and produced by Actors Theatre of Louisville, has launched such works as Agnes of God, The Gin Game, Crimes of the Heart and Off-Broadway's current Y2K and Dinner With Friends.
The Humana Festival runs Feb. 29-April 8 on three stages. This will be the last festival under the artistic directorship of Jon Jory, who announced his retirement from ATL, effective September 2000.
Also on the schedule:
• War of the Worlds by Anne Bogart and Naomi Iizuka. In a career steered straight to self-destruction, Orson Welles entranced and enraged everyone -- Anne Bogart and Naomi Iizuka look into the myth and genius of the legend. Bogart is artistic director of the SITI Company, and a professor at Columbia University. Her previous productions at ATL include In the Eye of the Hurricane, Picnic, The Adding Machine, Going, Going, Gone, Small Lives/Big Dreams, The Medium, Miss Julie, Private Lives and Cabin Pressure. Iizuka debuted at ATL three years ago with Polaroid Stories, followed by last season's Aloha, Say the Pretty Girls, at Humana. She received Princeton University's Hodder Fellowship, a McKnight Advancement Grant and a Jerome Playwriting Fellowship. She received her B.A. from Yale University and her M.F.A. from the University of California-San Diego. War of the Worlds will be given an early reading in January at Joe's Pub in New York City.
• Anton in Show Business by Jane Martin. This madcap comedy follows three actresses in a satirical look at American theatre. In the great tradition of backstage comedies - from The Royal Family to Noises Off - Anton in Show Business conveys the joys, pains, and absurdities of "putting on a play" at the turn of the century. Martin, is the pseudonymous, award-winning and Pulitzer nominated Kentucky playwright, who wrote Mr. Bundy, Jack and Jill, Keely and Du, Middle Aged White Guys, Cementville, Vital Signs and Talking With.
• Big Love by Charles L. Mee. Updated for the 21st century, this journey through the politics of love was inspired by the oldest extant Greek drama, Suppliants by Aeschylus, in which fifty brides vow to murder fifty fiances on their wedding night. Among Mee's plays are Berlin Circle, Orestes, Vienna: Lusthaus, The Investigation of the Murder in El Salvador, Another Person is a Foreign Country and Time to Burn.
• Touch by Toni Press-Coffman. This drama explores the miracle and fragility of human connection. A life is turned upside-down by the sudden disappearance of a loved one. Press-Coffman is the author of 20 plays, which have been produced throughout the country and internationally. She has won numerous playwriting awards, including a National Endowment for the Arts Playwriting Residency through which she will develop her next play at Indianapolis' Phoenix Theatre. She lives, writes, performs and teaches in Tucson, AZ.
• Tape by Stephen Belber. A reunion at the Lansing Film Festival turns dangerous as two old friends confront their memories, their motives and an old flame. Belber's plays include The Death of Frank (Synchronicity Space), Through Fred (Soho Repertory), The Wake (Via Theater), Broken Fall (Juilliard), Steve ( Expanded Arts), Wind (Lincoln Center Living Room at Here) and Stone Cold Lyricism (Harold Clurman Theater). He is a graduate of the Playwrights Program at the Juilliard School.
The festival will also include three 10-minute plays (The Divine Fallacy by Tina Howe, Arabian Nights by David Ives, Standard Time by Naomi Wallace) to be performed 1 PM and 3 PM April 2 in the Pamela Brown Auditorium.
Also in the mix are five "phone plays," a popular gimmick from last year. In the phone concept, patrons are invited to pick up a phone receiver and eavesdrop on recorded conversations. The phone plays in 2000 are The Reprimand by Jane Anderson,Show Business by Jeffrey Hatcher, Tresspassions by Mark O'Donnell, Lovers of Long Red Hair by Jose Rivera and Beside Every Good Man by Regina Taylor.
The festival will also offer Back Story, dubbed "a dramatic anthology," for which 18 playwrights wrote scenes or monologues based on "back story" information provided by Joan Ackermann. Each piece deals with a specific moment or event in the characters' lives.
Ackermann's premise is thus: "When Ethan is born in the worst blizzard of the century, two-year-old sister Ainsley nearly sacrifices a toe trying to clear a path for the baby's arrival. That initial gesture of devotion blossoms into a tale of sibling loyalty, rivalry and love that spans two decades."
Inspired by Ackermann's narrative Back Story, each of the eighteen playwrights in this collective creation "puts a distinctive spin on Ainsley and Ethan's amusing and poignant struggles with life, with each other, and with the phantom dad who abandoned them for the wilds of Alaska." Back Story will be performed March 25, 29, 31 and April 2.
The festival plays will be presented in ATL's 637-seat Pamela Brown Auditorium, the 318-seat Bingham Theatre and the 159 seat Victor Jory Theatre.
Tourist ticket packages, which offer discounts to multiple plays and area hotels, are available for weekends in March. Tickets for plays range $16-$30 depending on performance, date and seat location. Back Story is free, but tickets must be reserved. For information or reservations call (502) 584-1205 or 1-800-4ATL-TIX or visit Actors Theatre's website at www.actorstheatre.org.
-- By Kenneth Jones