Intern Intrigue: DC Sex Scandal Inspires Premiere of Aphrodisiac, Jan. 7-30 in NYC

News   Intern Intrigue: DC Sex Scandal Inspires Premiere of Aphrodisiac, Jan. 7-30 in NYC 13P (Thirteen Playwrights, Inc.), the theatre company formed by a collective of playwrights in spring 2004, will present the world premiere of Rob Handel's new political scandal-inspired play, Aphrodisiac, starting Jan. 7 in Manhattan.

Performances play the Downstairs Theater at P.S. 122, 150 First Avenue (at 9th Street). Opening is set for Jan. 9. Ken Rus Schmoll directs.

"Remember the summer of 2001?" the production notes ask. "From early May until Sept. 10, 2001, we were deluged with round-the-clock coverage of a missing Washington, D.C. intern and her connection with a congressman. Mr. Handel's Aphrodisiac poses the questions: 'What do you do if you wake up one morning and your dad, an undistinguished member of the U.S. Congress, is suddenly famous for his sex life — and under suspicion of murder?' 'Is there a support group?' 'And whom do you talk to, Chelsea Clinton?' If you're Avery and Alma Ferris — the adult children of congressman Dan Ferris, currently under investigation in the disappearance of Ilona Waxman — you try role-playing. You pretend to be the congressman and the intern. You maybe even summon up the most famous intern of all time for advice."

The cast includes Jennifer Dundas, Thomas Jay Ryan and Alison Weller. Designers are Sue Rees (set), Michelle R. Phillips (costume), Garin Marschall (lighting) and Bray Poor (sound).Maria Goyanes serves as producer.

Rob Handel was born in Poughkeepsie, NY. His plays include The Exploding Hotel (The Royal Court Theatre "Hot From America" Series, London), Millicent Scowlworthy (O'Neill Playwrights Conference) and Being Difficult (Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab). He holds an MFA from Brown and has been a fellow at The MacDowell Colony (in 1997 and 1999), The Ragdale Foundation and The Hambidge Center.

Formerly director of foundation and corporate relations for the Mark Morris Dance Group, Handel now serves as director of development for St. Ann's Warehouse. "I write about murder and sex and ethics, although in a way my plays are always really about my love of theatre itself," Handel told Playbill On-Line in the weeks leading up to Aphrodisiac. "There's a lot of playacting in them. Pretending to be someone else is fun, an opportunity to visit another life. It can also be evil: The character in Aphrodisiac inspired by Gary Condit is a serial adulterer, so he tells lies constantly, creating a fictional self in a fantasy world which spills over into the real world and destroys other people."

He continued, "I'm fascinated by tabloid crimes because we know that these are stories about real people, but by the time they reach us they've become cartoons. They start to sound desperate to convince us that their feelings and motivations are complicated, just like ours."

Handel said that he, Madeleine George and Anne Washburn started 13P out of concern that their generation of playwrights were spending too much time having work "developed" and not enough seeing what it actually looked like on stage.

Handel explained, "I'm genuinely mystified by how little of the work that makes it to production addresses the world outside our apartments. Playwrights from the Greeks to Ibsen thought it only natural to fuse what we now think of as 'British' plays (plays that ask 'What's wrong with the world?') with 'American' plays (plays that ask 'Why am I not happy?'). In this dark time, when many people are calling for a more nuanced view of reality, admitting that these questions are inseparable seems like a good place to start."

Ken Rus Schmoll directed 13P's inaugural production of Anne Washburn's The Internationalist.

Performances of Aphrodisiac continue to Jan. 30. All tickets are $15. The box office number for reservations is (212) 477-5288 or visit www.ticketweb.com.

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The members of 13P (www.13p.org) are billed as some of the hottest and most lauded young writers in New York. Among their number are four veterans of Actors Theatre of Louisville's Humana Festival, three veterans of the O'Neill Playwrights Conference, two Manhattan Theatre Club Fellows, two Princess Grace Award winners, a Helen Merrill Award winner, a Susan Smith Blackburn Award Winner, a Whiting Fellow, and a Jerome Fellow.

13P is made up of Sheila Callaghan, Erin Courtney, Madeleine George, Rob Handel, Ann Marie Healy, Julia Jarcho, Young Jean Lee, Winter Miller, Sarah Ruhl, Kate E. Ryan, Lucy Thurber, Anne Washburn, and Gary Winter.