World premieres don't happen only in London and New York anymore — and the Philadelphia theatre community will prove it in February 2007, when a collection of troupes participate in the inaugural Philadelphia New Play Festival.
According to the Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia, the Feb. 8-18, 2007, festival is "a multi-organizational and region-wide effort" to "feature nine main stage world premieres by the region's leading theatre companies, as well as several readings, symposia, and discussions that share the thrill of giving birth to a new play and celebrate Philadelphia as a hotbed of new play activity."
A little star power will be part of the mix, with a new musical about Lena Horne starring Tony Award winner Leslie Uggams.
World premieres will be presented by Arden Theatre Company, InterAct Theatre Company, The People's Light & Theatre Company, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Prince Music Theater, Theatre Exile, The Vagabond Acting Troupe, Walnut Street Theatre and The Wilma Theater. The period Feb. 8-18 is the window of the festival and doesn't necessarily reflect the full run dates of individual shows.
Free readings and other events will be presented by several companies, including Flashpoint Theatre Company, Hedgerow Theatre, Madhouse Theater Company, Philadelphia Dramatists Center and Philadelphia Young Playwrights.
The Philadelphia New Play Festival has been in development since June of 2005 when a group of Philadelphia artistic directors met to explore the idea of creating a festival of new plays. "A collaborative effort to raise awareness of the region as a thriving center for first-class theatre, the New Play Festival is unique around the country in highlighting the wide variety and vibrancy of new work being produced," according to the Theatre Alliance. "Rather than representing one centralized artistic point of view, each participating theatre is solely responsible for the selection and production of a play that is reflective of its individual mission and theatrical vision."
Deborah Golden, executive director of the Theatre Alliance stated, "We are delighted to offer this exciting opportunity to Philadelphia audiences. February will be a thrilling time to experience all that the region's theatre community has to offer, from world premiere productions to behind-the-scenes discussions with acclaimed playwrights, directors, and dramaturgs."
A Festival Pass will be sold for $20 through the Theatre Alliance which will provide several discounts, including $10 off tickets at Arden Theatre Company, Philadelphia Theatre Company, and The Wilma Theater; $5 off tickets at InterAct Theatre Company, People's Light & Theatre Company, Prince Music Theater, Theatre Exile, The Vagabond Acting Troupe, and Walnut Street Independence Studio 3; as well as discounts at participating businesses, including Astral Plane, Campo's, Chris' Jazz Café, Fork, L2 Restaurant, Moriarty's, Nodding Head, Places Bistro, SOTA Spirit of the Artist, Sotto Varalli, Upstairs at Varralli, and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Anthropology & Archeology.
Details and ticket information for the Philadelphia New Play Festival will be available online at www.theatrealliance.org/newplayfestival or by calling (215) 413-7150.
World premieres to be produced in the festival follow. Show descriptions are provided by the theatres.
Dex and Julie Sittin' in a Tree at Arden Theatre Company (Feb. 8-18) by Bruce Graham, directed by James J. Christy. In this world premiere by celebrated Philadelphia playwright Bruce Graham (Coyote on a Fence, Belmont Avenue Social Club, The Philly Fan), college sweethearts Dex and Julie meet 25 years later as he arrives to collect an award from their Pennsylvania alma mater. Michael "Dex" Dexter is a hotshot New York lawyer infamous for defending superstars and deviants. Dr. Julie Chernitsky is a recently widowed English professor with a biting sense of humor. Memories of their romance are rich, and things heat up fast. Filled with snappy dialogue and surprising twists, this bittersweet, two-actor tour-de-force is a must-see for everyone who has fantasized about a different outcome with a former love. www.ardentheatre.org.
A House with No Walls at InterAct Theatre Company (Feb. 8-18) by Thomas Gibbons, directed by Seth Rozin. Following the success of Bee-Luther-Hatchee and Permanent Collection, A House With No Walls presents a conflict between two African Americans — a rising star in the world of academia who has just published a startlingly conservative book and an ultra-liberal, Afro-centric political activist. The battleground for these two opposing forces is the site of the new American Museum of Liberty, which happens to be on the grounds of George Washington's Philadelphia home, including its slave quarters. This dramatic controversy — inspired by real-life events in Philadelphia — serves as a springboard for a volatile debate over whether or not African Americans should embrace the legacy of slavery as their primary identity or discard it as a mantle of "victimhood." A House With No Walls juxtaposes the fictionalized present day conflict with the true story of one of George Washington's slaves as she contemplates escape. www.interacttheatre.org.
Anne of Green Gables at The People's Light & Theatre Company (Feb. 8-11) adapted by Peter DeLaurier from the novel by L. M. Montgomery, directed by Shannon O'Donnell. Matthew Cuthbert and his no-nonsense sister Marilla send for an orphan to help with the farm at Green Gables. But instead of a sturdy boy, they get skinny Anne Shirley, an accident-prone redhead with a natural flair for drama. It doesn't take long though for this imaginative young heroine to work her way into the hearts of her reluctant new parents, and to transform their stodgy, old-fashioned neighbors on Prince Edward Island into a host of "kindred spirits." This new adaptation captures all the spirit of the beloved classic. Best appreciated by ages 7 and up. www.peopleslight.org.
Nerds://A Musical Software Satire, Philadelphia Theatre Company at Plays & Players Theater (Feb. 8-18) by Jordan Allen-Dutton and Erik Weiner, composed by Hal Goldberg, directed by Philip Wm. McKinley. A funny and irreverent musical take on the parallel stories of computer pioneers Bill Gates and Steve Jobs as they blaze from "garage inventors" to warring titans of the computer revolution. With its rollicking tunes and brilliantly off-beat humor, Nerds://A Musical Software Satire celebrates the inner nerd in us all! www.phillytheatreco.com.
Stormy Weather: Imagining Lena Horne at Prince Music Theater (Feb. 10-18), written by Sharleen Cooper Cohen; music by Cole Porter, Harold Arlen & Johnny Mercer, Rodgers & Hart, Jerome Kern, Billy Strayhorn, & more, directed by Michael Bush A glorious voice. Grace. Brains and beauty, talent and presence. All these were still not enough to make Lena Horne one of the world's greatest entertainers. Above all, she needed grit, courage and tenacity. She battled racism and blazed a trail for African American artists over a 40-year career with many firsts: first African American movie star, first black woman on a national magazine cover. Blacklisted and suspended by M-G-M, Lena Horne faced professional and personal tragedies that nearly ended her career. Discover her amazing story in this Prince world premiere starring Tony Award-winner Leslie Uggams heading a spectacular company singing a score filled with hits like "The Lady is a Tramp," "You Do Something to Me" and of course, "Stormy Weather," plus 20 more. www.princemusictheater.org.
Hearts & Soles produced by Theatre Exile at Christ Church Neighborhood House (Feb. 8-18), an evening of short works by Bruce Graham, Michael Hollinger and Arden Kass directed by Joe Canuso, Deborah Block and Deb Seif. Theatre Exile will present the "Philly Originals," a multi-pronged exploration and presentation of works originated here in Philadelphia. The highlight of the festival will be Hearts & Soles, an evening of short works by Bruce Graham, Michael Hollinger and Arden Kass. Hearts & Soles is a sexy, smart look at the misfiring of human connection, from lovers to friends to fathers. www.theatreexile.org.
The Wedding Consultant, produced by The Vagabond Acting Troupe at L2 Restaurant (Feb. 8-18) by Eric Singel, directed by Gerre Garrett. One wedding is just like another...unless it's this one! The best man just arrested the mother of the groom; the mother of the other groom is expecting to meet the "bride;" the lesbians are having anger management issues; and no one can find the groom. Or the other groom. Enter The Wedding Consultant from Hell, determined to make your wedding unique, "just like everyone else's." www.vagabondactingtroupe.org.
Bookends at Walnut Street Independence Studio 3 (Feb. 8-18) by M. J. Feely, directed by Tom Markus. Jake and Matt were the best of friends. They knew how to work together. They could complete each other's sentences. There were like bookends. Together, they became one of the most successful director/playwright teams in the American theatre. In October of 1951, all of that changed. Jackson "Jake" Kale was interrogated by the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Lives, careers and friendships were destroyed. Jake and Matt took different paths. Thirteen years later, Matt, his wife Nora and Jake are reunited and given an opportunity to begin a new chapter. Can they heal old wounds and reclaim lost innocence? Or are the memories of a better life all that we have left? www.walnutstreettheatre.org.
Enemies, A Love Story at The Wilma Theater (Feb. 9-18), from the novel by Isaac Bashevis Singer, adapted for the stage by Sarah Schulman, directed by Jiri Zizka. New York City, 1949. The war is over. The Big Apple blushes with excitement. New hopes rise. Herman, a Holocaust survivor falls in love again, and again, and again. Overcome with guilt and facing the intricacy of pleasing his three wives, he questions his spirituality and God's order on the Lower East Side, Coney Island and in the Bronx. Does a capricious rabbi want to guide him to the peace he seeks? Or simply lay his hands on one of Herman's wives? Adapted from an enticing novel by Isaac Bashevis Singer, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Enemies, A Love Story is a bittersweet and deeply funny tale of a man stumbling towards enlightenment, striving to escape his past but unable to escape his women. www.wilmatheater.org. *
The Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia "strengthens and leads the region's richly diverse theatre community, with more than 100 member organizations and 200 individuals, by promoting awareness and serving as a resource for information, professional development and advocacy."
For further information, visit www.theatrealliance.org or call the Theatre Alliance at (215) 413-7150.