Perhaps the most famous new play festival in the U.S., the Actors Theatre of Louisville Humana Festival of New American Plays will present six new works in repertory, Feb. 24-April 4. The 22nd annual fest premieres plays by (mostly) established dramatists, with this year's crop including Naomi Wallace, the pseudonymous Jane Martin, William Mastrosimone and Donald Margulies. Special this year will be a bill of short one-act plays.
According to Louisville spokesperson James Seacat, 660 recommended plays were read, and from the ones chosen a common theme emerged: children at risk.
Here's the line-up:
The Trestle At Pope Lick Creek is the latest from Naomi Wallace, author of the much-talked-about drama, One Flea Spare, which played at the Humana Fest before winning the 1996 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and 1997 Best Play Obie. In Trestle, two teenagers plan to risk their lives in a race across a railroad tressel against an oncoming locomotive, which causes ripples in a small, Depression-era factory town. Other plays by Wallace include Birdy and Slaughter City.
Starring are Tami Dixon, Michael Lindstroth, Marion McCorry, Michael Medeiros and Jonathan Bolt. Designing the show are Paul Owen (set), Jeanette de Johng (costumes), Greg Sullivan (lighting) and Martin Desjardins (sound). Adrian Hall, founder of RI's Trinity Repertory, directs.
* Ti Jean Blues, an adaptation of Jack Kerouac's prose works, by JoAnne Akalaitis. An avant-garde piece of jazz, word and movement, Ti Jean Blues features music by Philip Glass, alongside sampled tunes from Lester Young, Charlie Mingus and Charlie Parker. Akalaitis, former artistic director of the NY Shakespeare Festival and co-founder of Mabou Mines, recently staged The Iphigenia Cycle in Chicago.
Starring are Spencer Barros, Gretchen Lee Krich, Lisa Louise Langford, Jesse Lenat and Christopher Michael Bauer. Designing the show are Paul Owen (set), Jeanette deJong (costumes), Greg Sullivan (lighting) and Martin Desjardins (sound).
Said Akalaitis in a statement, When I was a youth at university, I read On The Road...and it changed my life forever... What a great American genius." Ti Jean Blues received staged readings at NY Theatre Workshop and PS 122.
In Dinner With Friends, Donald Margulies looks at the unraveling of a marriage and its effects on the couple's friendships. Margulies' What's Wrong With This Picture? came to Broadway, while his Off-Broadway works include Sight Unseen, Collected Stories and The Model Apartment. Michael Bloom directs Dinner With Friends.
Mr. Bundy -- no, not late, lamented shoe salesman Al from TV's "Married With Children." This one is a convicted child molester recently moved into a neighborhood. One couple gets caught between Mr. Bundy's rights -- and his wrongs. Playwright Jane Martin (whoever he or she may be) is a specialist at dramas pitting conflicting political viewpoints against each other. Martin's abortion drama, Keely And Du, won the American Theatre Critics Association's Best New Play Award in 1994; her look at modern-day relationships, Jack And Jill, premiered at the Humana Festival two years ago. Artistic director Jon Jory directs.
Like Totally Weird is a suspense drama about teenagers who steal into a Hollywood mansion to meet their idols. Soon the producer and his leading lady are trapped in a blood-soaked action thriller. Playwright William Mastrosimone's best known play, Extremities, was an edgy drama about rape and revenge, but his eclectic oeuvre also includes The Stone Carver, The Woolgatherer and Benedict Arnold. Directing is Mladen Kiselov.
Resident Alien, by Stuart Spencer, is also like, totally weird. It's about a man who claims his 12-year-old son was abducted by aliens, though his ex-wife, her new husband and the local sheriff prove skeptical. Author Spencer (Blue Stars, Sudden Devotion) teaches playwrighting at NYU and Sarah Lawrence. Judy Minor directs.
A bill of four ten-minute plays will also be part of the festival:
Acorn by recent NYU Tisch grad David Graziano, about an unemployed carpenter forced to live with his uncle in Brooklyn. Grazian dy/drama will also receive the $1,000 ATL Heideman Award for outstanding 10-minute play, an honor given annually since 1979.
Making The Call by Jane Martin, about a woman secretly propositioned by the U.S. President. "Martin" is the author of Jack and Jill and Keely and Du.
Meow by Val Smith (The Gamblers, Marguerite Bonet), about two catty, sarcastic, professional women.
Let The Big Dog Eat by Elizabeth Wong, wherein four industry big wigs meet for golf and a discussion of how much profit should go to the public good. Wong's previous works include Letters to a Student Revolutionary, China Doll and Kimchee and Chitlins.
Shows in the Festival take place at three theatres in ATL's downtown complex: the Pamela Brown Auditorium, the Bingham Theatre and the Victor Jory Theatre.
The Actors Theatre Of Louisville, now in its 34th season, also offers the Brown-Forman Classics In Context Festival and Flying Solo & Friends performances. Underwritten by the Humana Foundation, the Festival draws writers, journalists and theatre critics from across the country.
For more information on the Humana Festival at Actors Theatre of Louisville call (502) 584-1205 or check out their website at www.actorstheatre.org.
-- By David Lefkowitz