New plays by Terrence McNally, Bill Cain, Dan Dietz, Yussef El Guindi, Danai Gurira and Sam Hunter wil be explored.
The organization headed by artistic director/producer Robert H. Egan seeks to nurture new voices for the American theatre, "with an emphasis on diverse voices that speak to today's most compelling social, political, and moral issues."
The OPC focuses on developing previously unproduced plays from established and emerging playwrights, choosing six to be developed during the intense two-week conference. It culminates in public readings, providing each playwright another level of feedback.
The playwright-in-residence for this summer will be Sarah Treem, who will be working on her new play, Vienna's Amazing.
The 2008 Ojai Playwrights Conference Plays
Nine Circles by Bill Cain: "On trial for his life: an American soldier. Not in a foreign country, but here at home. Showing that American justice is impartial in the face of war crimes the government seeks the ultimate penalty in federal court. It is for one of our own soldiers. It is the same penalty we sought for Saddam Hussein — death. A speculative, dramatic, visceral consideration of actual events. You are the judge. You are the jury in the trial of a 19-year-old American recruit." Cain's widely produced play Stand-Up Tragedy earned six LA Critics Awards, including an award for distinguished writing, in its premiere at the Mark Taper Forum. It later garnered four Helen Hayes Awards at Arena Stage in Washington, DC and the Joe A. Calloway Playwriting Award.
The Sandreckoner by Dan Dietz: "Harold Bix's life has fallen apart. Tragedy at the local high school has cost him his job, his family, everything he holds dear. At the center of the whole mess is Donny Trombul — a kid who knows way more than he's telling. On a sweet suburban evening in June, Harold invites Donny over for a conversation. It's long overdue. Will Donny be the key to solving this terrible puzzle? Or will their game of cat and mouse spiral out of control? A darkly comedic mystery about violence, the suburbs, and the search for answers." Dietz's plays include Dirigible, Blind Horses, Tilt Angel and Americamisfit. His play Tempodyssey received a world premiere from the National New Play Network in 2006-07, premiering at Curious Theatre, Studio Theatre, Phoenix Theatre and New Jersey Rep. The play was named a finalist for the 2007 PEN USA Literary Award in Drama.
Language Rooms by Yussef El Guindi: "A dark comedy situated in one of those so-called 'black sites' run by the CIA for the interrogation of prisoners. It revolves around two Arab-American translators/interrogators, one of whose 'sympathies' and 'loyalties' are questioned as the play progresses. Could he be spying/working for someone else? The play confronts issues of fitting in, belonging, American identity, and immigration." El Guindi's most recent productions include Our Enemies: Lively Scenes of Love and Combat, produced by Silk Road Theatre Project; and Jihad Jones and the Kalashnikov Babes, produced by Golden Thread Productions. His Back of the Throat was winner of the 2004 Northwest Playwrights' Competition as well as L.A. Weekly's Excellence in Playwriting Award. Ten Acrobats in an Amazing Leap of Faith, staged by Silk Road Theatre Project, won the After Dark Award for Best New Play in Chicago. Yussef holds an MFA from Carnegie-Mellon University and was playwright-in-residence at Duke University.
Eclipsed by Danai Gurira: "Explores the unexpected connections made between five women attempting to navigate and survive the most hostile terrain imaginable. Can you imagine it? A world of survival, violence, and humanity. Set in the vicious and all-too-real world of the Liberian war zone. A play of uncompromising challenge, change, and ultimately hope. From the author of In the Continuum (which developed at Ojai and went on to world wide acclaim)." Gurira is recipient of a John Gassner Outer Critics Award and an Obie Award for co-authorship and co-performance of the Off-Broadway play, In the Continuum. It toured to Woolly Mammoth, Center Theater Group, Yale Repertory, Philadelphia Theater Company, Goodman Theatre. Born in the U.S. to Zimbabwean parents and raised in Zimbabwe, Gurira received her MFA from NYU.
I Am Montana by Sam Hunter: "Having returned home to Montana after a traumatic stint in the Israeli army, Eben Shamir is asked to give a presentation at the national headquarters of his mega-retail employer, Valumart. Traveling cross-country in an El Camino, Eben is trapped between his best friend, Tommy, and the ardent admiration of a meth addicted co-worker, Dirk. Secrets are revealed and painful memories exposed. Tommy soon learns that Eben's plans for the Valumart convention go far beyond a simple presentation on the future of retail. A dark take on the destruction of the small-town American landscape and minimum-wage employees." Originally from northern Idaho, Hunter received his BFA in dramatic writing from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, his MFA in Playwriting from the Iowa Playwrights Workshop, and is currently a fellow at the Juilliard School's Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program. His is also the new Playwrights of New York Fellow at Lark Play Development Center. His plays include I Am Montana (2008 Missoula Colony, 2007 Bay Area Playwrights Festival, 2007 Seven Devils Playwrights Conference), Norman Rockwell Killed My Father (2005 O'Neill Playwrights Conference), Pigheart (2006 Iowa Playwrights Workshop), Abraham: A Shot in the Head (2004 Blueprint Series, Ontological-Hysteric Theater), and his newest play, Idaho/Dead Idaho.
Unusual Acts of Devotion by Terrence McNally: "On a hot summer evening, five residents of a Greenwich Village walk-up gather on the roof to celebrate the return of one denizen and a wedding anniversary of another. They inadvertently confront some of the uncomfortable truths that inform their lives and relationships. Described by the playwright as a 'love letter to New York: its energy and its people' — the play looks at things done and not done — all in the name of love." Tony Award winner McNally's most recent collaboration is the book for The Visit at Arlington's Signature Theatre. His most recent play Deuce played on Broadway in the 2006-2007 season. His play Some Men played Second Stage Theatre. He won Tony Awards for Ragtime, Master Class, Love! Valour! Compassion! and for Kiss of the Spider Woman.
Vienna's Amazing by Sarah Treem: "Two female evolutionary biologists meet at a conference in Boston, discovering that they share more than their professional calling. Presented in real time to enhance dramatic effect, the two women must work though a complicated relationship first forged more than 30 years ago." Treem's A Feminine Ending premiered at Playwrights Horizons in the fall of 2007, leading to productions at SouthCoast Repertory and Portland Center Stage. The play is published by Samuel French. Her other works include Human Voices, Empty Sky, Mirror Mirror, Against the Wall. She is a producer on the HBO drama "In Treatment" and is currently writing a romantic comedy for Miramax. She has taught playwriting at Yale, where she earned her B.A. and M.F.A.
This year's directors include Leonard Foglia (Unusual Acts of Devotion), Hal Brooks (Nine Circles), Abigail Deser (The Sandreckoner), Robert Egan (Language Rooms), Robert O'Hara (Eclipsed) and Mark Rucker (I Am Montana).
The conference was first established in 1997 "in response to a need for an intensive, retreat-oriented playwriting program focusing entirely on artistic concerns." OPC has supported the development of established writers such as Luis Alfaro, Jon Robin Baitz, Stephen Belber, Lee Blessing, Keith Bunin, Julia Cho, Christopher Durang, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Danny Hoch, Arthur Kopit, Sherry Kramer, Lisa Loomer, Lynn Manning, Susan Miller, Peter Parnell, Adam Rapp, Annie Weisman and Charlayne Woodard. Returning to provide management and producing leadership and support are Helen Solomon, managing director, and Cynthia Stillwell, coordinating producer.
For more information, visit www.ojaiplays.org.