NY’s Public Theatre presents their annual New Works Now! festival of staged readings, April 23 - May 3, at their Anspacher Theater. The festival was initiated to showcase new plays and performance pieces by both established and emerging playwrights.
Some of the plays presented in past festivals that have gone on to be fully staged at The Public include: Tripping Through the Car House by Regina Porter, Multiple Personalities by Will Scheffer, Insurrection: Holding History by Robert O'Hara, The Chang Fragments by Han Ong, Ikebana by Alice Tuan and Icarus by Edwin Sanchez.
This years’ schedule is as follows:> • American Dreams, adapted from the novel by Sapphire and directed by Jaye Austin-Williams April 23 at 8 PM. -- Family portriat circa 1956: Father in his Air Force uniform; Mother in her Donna Reed dress; Brother 1 and Brother 2 in shirt and tie; and Sister in a school dress. The real picture is quite different. Sister takes us on a disturbing journey that begins with the innocence of the Mouseketeers through abuse, drugs, and racism to enlightenment and the triumph of survival.
• Silence, written and directed by Moira Buffini. April 24 at 8 PM -- It's a typical end-of-the-millenium story: cross dressing, drugs, same-sex marriage, alternative religions, apocalyptic dreams -- end of the first millenium, that is. Medieval Britain is the setting for this story of a not-so-pure Maiden sent to marry a not-so-manly Lord, who is advised by a not-so-celibate Priest, and protected by a not-so-insensitive Thug, all ruled by a King who won't come out from under his bedcovers.
• Lobster Alice, by Kira Obolensky, directed David Esbjornson. April 25 at 8 PM -- 1946, Anaheim, California. Alice Horowitz, a secretary at a Hollywood animation studio, wants her life to be interesting. Her boss, animator John Finch, is in the midst of animating Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, when surrealist Salvator Dali arrives at the studio for six weeks. His assignment-to create a short animated film inspired by “Destino”, a popular song about a love affair. Finch is put in charge of Dali’s actives. The force of Surrealism hits Anaheim, and Alice’s life gets stranger and stranger. • Carriage by Jerome Hairston, directed by Robert O'Hara. April 26 at 8 PM -- Even a trailer park in Carriage, Oklahoma, can be a place filled with magic. Madame Verona leads Melvin back to his childhood and memories of a lonely mother, a deceased father, and a sister headed for a tragic future.
• Birdseed Bundles by Ain Gordon, directed by Michael Sexton. April 27 at 8 PM -- Past and present collide in a motel room in Vermont when Leo Farber's two dead grandmothers turn up to help him make birdseed bundles for his former lover's wedding. With scenes ranging from England (circa 1930s-1970s) to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911, this play is a magical look at three generations of long-held family secrets.
• Thirst by Neena Beber, directed by Bartlett Sher. April 28, at 8 PM -- Stuart, who is rich, desires Caroline, who is beautiful, and so he pays Hans, who is talented, to sculpt her. But what do Stuart and Caroline and Hans (and Evelyn, who years for Stuart) really want? Inspired by the Henry James novel "Roderic Hudson," this play explores the nature of thirst.
• Guanabana by Elizabeth Ruiz, directed by Loretta Greco. April 29 at 8 PM -- With the aid of the most noble of fruits, the guanabana, Luz is able to see the future. Yet her only desire is to flee her mother's persecution to be with the man she loves, a Cuban-Chinese monk. Before she finds happiness she will mourn the loss of her betrothed, join a rebel army, have a child out of wedlock, and predict the creation of the microwave oven! The melodrama of a telenovella collides with Cuban history in this wild and woolly play.
• Six Authors in Search of... directed by Leah C. Gardiner and Michael Sexton. April 30 at 8 PM -- What do a vampire, a bartender, and Dick Clark have in common? Playwrights Ruth Margraff (with special guest appearance by composer, Fred Ho), Keith Josef Adkins, Carlos Murillo, Madeleine Olneck, Adam Rapp, and Diana Son contemplate the millenium (or not) in an evening of short one-acts.
• Smoke, Lilies & Jade by Carl Hancock Rux, directed by Leah C. Gardiner. May 1 at 8 PM -- It's the 1920s, and Richard Bruce Nugent is the toast of the salon scene. While his life outlasted those of his peers, Nugent's art faded into near obscurity. Rux poetically fuses the life and work of this complex and dynamic man.
• Romeo Sierra Tango written and directed by Rinde Eckert. May 2 at 8 PM -- Shakespeare's Romeo died an obnoxious violent fool, callow and humorless. Wake him up! Place him in No Man's Land, World War I, much older, angrier, funnier, wiser and once again caught between the warring houses.
• Fire Eater by Brighde Mullins, directed by Maria Mileaf. May 3 at 8 PM -- The potato famine has ravaged the once-Emerald Isle and a young girl emigrates to New York City to help provide for her family. Working as a maid, she meets an Emerson-quoting, androgynous philanthropist who believes that the plight of the Irish results from drinking hops and grains instead of eating them. Together they return to Ireland, one to save its citizens and the other to reclaim her home and family.
Participants in last year’s festival included Lilliam by and with David Cale, directed by Joe Mantello; Only Beauty written and directed by David Greenspan; Sweet Home by Keith Josef Adkins, directed by Jo Bonney; The Lesser Magoo by Mac Wellman, directed by Jim Simpson; Middle Finger by Han Ong, directed by Brian Kulick; Trueblinka by Adam Rapp, directed by Richard Caliban; Centaur Battle of San Jacinto by Ruth Margraff, directed by Liz Diamond; Personal History by Dominic A. Taylor, directed by Donald Douglass; Santa Concepcion by Anna Garcia-Romero, directed by Leah Gardiner; (U)nder (F)rank (O)bservation by Jake-Ann Jones, directed by Peter Francis James; and Myths and Hymns - which later became Saturn Returns music and lyrics by Adam Guettel, directed by Tina Landau.
New Works Now is free at The Public’s Anspacher Theater, for reservations or more information call (212) 260-2400.
-- By Sean McGrath