The plays will appear Oct. 26-Nov. 20 at The Steppenwolf Garage, 1624 N. Halsted St., in Chicago. Tickets ($20 per show) go on sale Aug. 19.
Here are the First Look 2011 full (but billed as "developmental," and not open to review) productions at a glance:
Man in Love
A new play by Christina Anderson
Directed by Robert O'Hara
Oct. 26–Nov. 20
"1936. A metropolis divided by segregation and struck by economic turmoil. Rent parties rage above, while men hungry for work and love roam the streets. In this concrete jungle, a series of black female bodies turn up and a pattern emerges. Reactions vary across the city — hot-tempered ex-con Walker remains oblivious; Darlynn is anxious, but then again, she's always anxious; and her neighbor Paul Pare Jr., a young, charming black man stays cool. Man in Love examines a world of quiet desperation in hard times, where a criminal and his victims can get lost in the crowd."
Anderson's plays include Hollow Roots, pen/man/ship, Sweet Brown Ginger, Glo, BlackTop Sky, Inked Baby and DRIP. Her work has appeared at A.C.T., Penumbra Theater, About Face Theatre, Playwrights Horizons, Crowded Fire, Ars Nova and elsewhere.
A new play by Zayd Dohrn
Directed by Kimberly Senior
Oct. 27-Nov. 20 "A group of former junkies and sex addicts gather in a California beach flophouse to overcome their desires with an aggressive dose of 'tough love' group therapy. When a strange young woman shows up on their doorstep, their sobriety, celibacy and faith in each other are all put to the test. The denizens of Zayd Dohrn's Want follow a new age approach which begs the question: cure or cult?"
Dohrn is a playwright and screenwriter. His plays, including Sick, Magic Forest Farm, Reborning and Outside People, have been produced and developed across the country, including Manhattan Theatre Club, Berkshire Theatre Festival, MCC, Marin Theatre Company, The Public (SPF), Naked Angels, South Coast Rep, The Vineyard, Southern Rep, Kitchen Dog, The Lark, New York Theatre Workshop and San Francisco Playhouse.
A new play by Carly Mensch
Directed by Matt Miller
Oct. 28–Nov. 20
"Uber-hip Brooklynites Pam and Dixon take great pride in their progressive approach to parenting. But when their 17-year-old daughter, Julie, repeatedly lies about where she spent the weekend, their cool, high-brow façade crashes and burns. Carly Mensch's Oblivion takes a wry look at Nietzsche, famed film critic Pauline Kael and what it means to fight for the things you love."
Mensch is currently a story editor on the Showtime series "Weeds." Other plays include Now Circa Then, All Hail Hurricane Gordo and Len, Asleep in Vinyl. She has developed work at The Kennedy Center, Marin Theatre Company, New York Stage & Film,Center Theatre Group and Ars Nova, where she was the 2008 Playwright-in-Residence, as well as a founding member of Play Group.
The First Look 2011 free readings (held at Steppenwolf's Upstairs Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted St.) are:
fml: or how Carson McCullers saved my life
A new play by Sarah Gubbins
Directed by Joanie Schultz
Nov. 3 at 3 PM
"Jo's junior year of high school in suburban LaGrange, IL, started off just fine — not that it's ever easy being queer at 16. Thankfully, a new English teacher assigns Carson McCullers’ famed novel 'The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter' and Jo discovers an unshakable kinship to McCullers' central character John Singer. Like Singer, Jo is forever the listener, definitively the outsider, perpetually misunderstood and filled with unrequited love. Yet when she is a victim of a gay-bashing incident, her world is turned upside down and she must decide whether to seek revenge or redemption. A story about isolation, fitting in and finding oneself, fml: how Carson McCullers saved my life is a play about surviving high school and how literature still has the power to transform how we see the world."
Gubbins is a Chicago playwright whose play Fair Use was developed and produced as part of Steppenwolf's First Look 2008. Her play, The Kid Thing, was read as part of First Look 2010 and will be co-produced in Chicago this fall by About Face Theatre and Chicago Dramatists. Other plays include In Loco Parentis and The Water Play. fml is also being presented as part of Steppenwolf for Young Adults' 2011-12 season.
Miss Marx; Or the Involuntary Side Effect of Living
A new play by Philip Dawkins
Directed by Jimmy McDermott
Nov. 4 at 3 PM
"Eleanor Marx is sexy, young and very revolutionary. Miss Marx; Or the Involuntary Side Effect of Living examines how fighting gender inequality in Victorian England comes easily to Miss Marx on the soapbox, but is much harder in the bedroom. When her tumultuous common-law marriage to fellow socialist Edward Aveling begins to disintegrate, she turns to loved ones for solace, including family friend Friedrich Engels. You know, because her dad is Karl Marx."
Dawkins' play The Homosexuals recently received its world premiere at Chicago's About Face Theatre. Other playwriting credits include Dead Letter Office, Yes To Everything!, Perfect, Ugly Baby, A Still Life in Color, The Man With a Shattered World and Saguaro.
Mud Blue Sky
A new play by Marisa Wegrzyn
Directed by Edward Sobel
Nov. 5 at 11 AM
"One long night in a grungy chain hotel room near O'Hare Airport is enough to make anyone question their aspirations in life, but for middle-aged flight attendants Beth and Sam, it's just part of a never-ending layover that goes with the job. When Beth's 18-year-old pot purveyor shows up in full prom gear in the parking lot offering a new perspective, she begins to doubt her twilight existence between time zones. Mud Blue Sky reminds us how the small kindnesses we afford each other at 4 AM can inspire us to grab onto life before it flies by."
Wegrzyn's The Butcher of Baraboo was produced as part of Steppenwolf's First Look 2006 and premiered Off Broadway at Second Stage in 2007. It will also be presented at Chicago's A Red Orchid Theatre next spring. Her other plays include Hickorydickory, Killing Women, Psalms of a Questionable Nature, Ten Cent Night and Diversey Harbor.
The production team for First Look 2011 includes Chelsea Warren (sets), Myron Elliott (costumes, Oblivion), David Hyman (costumes, Man in Love) Crystal Jovae Mazur (costumes, Want), J.R. Lederle (lights) and Miles Polaski (sound). Additional credits include: Erica Daniels (casting), Cassie Wolgamott (lead stage manager) and Jonathan Nook & Tess Lauchaire (stage managers).
First Look Repertory of New Work plays Wednesdays through Fridays at 8 PM; and Saturdays and Sundays at 1 PM, 4:30 PM and 8 PM. Three-play marathons are available every Saturday and Sunday during the run.
Tickets are available at www.steppenwolf.org or by calling Audience Services at (312) 335-1650.
The mission of First Look Repertory of New Work is to develop plays for future production at Steppenwolf and other theatres across the country. Since its inception, eleven of the 18 plays presented during First Look's first six seasons have enjoyed subsequent world premieres at other theatres.