Playwrights Grimm, Lutvak, Freedman, Gibson, Kornbluth, Belber, Adjmi, Gardley Climb to Sundance

News   Playwrights Grimm, Lutvak, Freedman, Gibson, Kornbluth, Belber, Adjmi, Gardley Climb to Sundance At the annual Sundance Institute Theatre Laboratory in the mountains of Utah, it's not the altitude that makes you dizzy — it's the passion for new works.

At the Sundance Resort, the 2006 Theatre Laboratory begins July 10 and continues to July 30, marrying playwrights with directors and guest actors to develop new plays and musicals. Private presentations in an atmosphere of caring artists and theatre professionals prompt the writers to continue refining the works.

The seven plays to be developed at Sundance (official altitude: 6,000 feet) are Citizen Josh, by Josh Kornbluth, directed by David Dower, "an improvisational solo show which strives to rescue 'democracy' from the sloganeers in a personal autobiographical format; Current Nobody, by Melissa James Gibson, directed by Daniel Aukin, a modern reinterpretation of Homer's "The Odyssey"; Geometry of Fire, by Stephen Belber, directed by Lucie Tiberghien, "which weaves the story of an American reservist just back from Iraq and a Saudi-American citizen investigating his father’s death; The Evildoers, by David Adjmi, directed by Rebecca Taichman, "a play in which the marriage of two couples unravel in a dark yet comedic context; …And Jesus Moonwalks the Mississippi, by Marcus Gardley, directed by Matt August, "a poetic retelling of the Demeter myth set during the Civil War"; Kind Hearts and Coronets, book by Robert L. Freedman, music by Steven Lutvak, lyrics by Robert L. Freedman & Steven Lutvak, directed by Ron Lagomarsino, "a new musical based on the 1949 film classic starring Alec Guinness, which centers on Louis D'Ascoyne Mazzini, who has been callously disinherited by the wealthy and titled D'Ascoyne Family and denied his one true love"; and Steve & Idi, by David Grimm, directed by Eleanor Holdridge, "which features a 30-something gay man whose life is spinning out of control when he is visited by the ghost of General Idi Amin, the Ugandan dictator."

The company includes Nancy Anderson, Whitney Bashor, Judy Blazer, Reg E. Cathey, Johanna Day, Raúl Esparza, Jordan Gelber, Kimberly Hebert Gregory, Carla Harting, Roderick Hill, Nicholas Hormann, Christina Kirk, Ezra Knight, Judy Kuhn, Anika Larsen, Piter Marek, Kelly McCreary, Chris Messina, Jennifer Mudge, Novella Nelson, Toi Perkins, Anthony Rapp, Gareth Saxe, Tregoney Shepherd, Michael Stuhlbarg and Price Waldman.

In addition to the seven projects being developed at this year's Lab, playwright Tanya Barfield has been named Playwright-in-Residence and will work on Equal Measure. This new play "juxtaposes the storylines of President Woodrow Wilson and Jade Kingston, an African-American civil servant working in the White House. As Wilson entered World War I in order to 'make the world safe for democracy,' the President also began the reorganization of civil service, systematically removing black federal employees."

"We have selected a wonderful range of projects from renowned playwrights as well as from new and emerging theatre artists," stated Philip Himberg, producing artistic director, Sundance Institute Theatre Program. "These selected works reflect the vitality and variety of storytelling inherent in American theatre. From the racial integration policies of the 1960s to the modern political and cultural impact of the war in Iraq, this group of work exemplifies the importance of American theatre in today's cultural landscape." At Sundance, writers will work with directors and actors to refine and develop their projects in a safe atmosphere free of producing pressures. Presentations to an audience of the Sundance Theatre Lab community which include staffers, guests and fellow Lab participants are made at the discretion of the participants.

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The Theatre Lab is under the artistic supervision of Philip Himberg, producing artistic director of the Sundance Institute Theatre Program. Creative advisers for this year's Lab include Gordon Davidson, (founding artistic director of the Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum), Molly Smith (artistic director, Arena Stage), and Doug Wright (playwright). The dramaturgy team, lead by Mame Hunt, includes Elissa Adams, Jocelyn Clarke and Sydne Mahone.

Meg Simon and Henry Russell Bergstein are the casting directors for the 2006 Sundance Institute Theatre Lab.

For more information, visit http://www.sundance.org/theatre.

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The seven plays selected for the 2006 Sundance Institute Theatre Laboratory are:

  • Geometry of Fire (formerly titled Assymetrical Battlefield) by Stephen Belber, directed by Lucie Tiberghien. The play by the author of Tape and Broadway's Match "weaves the story of an American reservist just back from Iraq and a Saudi-American citizen investigating a mysterious death. Overlapping in bars, living rooms and the periphery of imagination, both men unknowingly seek solace in a world with other agendas."
  • Citizen Josh by Josh Kornbluth, directed by David Dower. "Combining personal and collective autobiography, this piece by monologist Kornbluth (Ben Franklin Unplugged and Love and Taxes) will try to rescue 'democracy' from the sloganeers and make it feel immediate and visceral again."
  • Current Nobody by Melissa James Gibson, directed by Daniel Aukin. "Gibson, the author of [sic] and Brooklyn Bridge has invented a loose adaptation of Homer's 'Odyssey,' where it is the wife, Penelope, who has been away for 20 years as a war photojournalist and the husband, Odysseus, who has been left at home. It is their teenage daughter, Tel, who is left to grapple with the human cost of epic ambition."
  • The Evildoers by David Adjmi, directed by Rebecca Taichman, starring Johanna Day and Michael Stuhlbarg. "When Martin's marriage falls apart, his best friends agree to take him in, but things take an unexpected turn when he is exposed to some rather unorthodox views on Christian Ethics. This new play is a raw, savage critique of fundamentalism couched in domestic comedy." Adjmi's other plays include Stunning and Strange Atrractors; and he is the recipient of a 2006 Jerome Fellowship.
  • …And Jesus Moonwalks the Mississippi by Marcus Gardley, directed by Matt August. "This new play is a poetic retelling of the Demeter myth set during the Civil War. Narrated by Miss Ssippi River, it tells of a world where trees preach, rivers dance and Christ moonwalks." Gardley (Dance of the Holy Ghosts) is a poet-playwright who teaches Creative Writing at Columbia University.
  • Kind Hearts and Coronets, book by Robert Freedman, music by Steven Lutvak, lyrics by Robert Freedman & Steven Lutvak, directed by Ron Lagomarsino. "Set in 1902 England and based on the 1949 film classic, which starred Alec Guinness, this new musical is a black comedy centering on Louis D'Ascoyne Mazzini, who has been callously disinherited by the wealthy and titled D'Ascoyne Family and denied his one true love. Louis seeks revenge by murdering the eight relatives (all played by the same actor) who stand in his way of becoming Duke of Chalfont." Lutvak and Freedman have collaborated on another musical, Campaign of the Century, and are the recipients of the 2006 Kleban Award. Freedman wrote the television bio-pic "Me and My Shadows" which starred Judy Davis as Judy Garland.

  • Steve & Idi by David Grimm, directed by Eleanor Holdridge. "Steve's life is spinning out of control. His work is going no where, his lover dumps him, his friendships are strained and, as if that's not enough, the ghost of General Idi Amin, the Ugandan dictator, bursts through his window with a very strange demand." Grimm's Measure for Pleasure, workshopped at the 2005 Sundance Theatre Lab and recently premiered at the New York Shakespeare Festival Public Theater.

    Tanya Barfield (Playwright in Residence) will continue her work on Equal Measure, which "juxtaposes the storylines of President Woodrow Wilson and Jade Kingston, an African-American civil servant working in the White House. As Wilson entered World War I in order to make the world safe for democracy, the President also began the reorganization of civil service, systematically removing black federal employees."

    Barfield's play, along with the plays of Hilly Hicks, David Adjmi, Steven Lutvak and Robert Freedman, represent a quartet of new work that have benefited from participation in the Sundance Institute Playwrights Retreat at Ucross in Wyoming.

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    The Sundance Theatre Program is a program of the Sundance Institute. Through its developmental activities at the Sundance Theatre Laboratory, The Sundance Playwright's Retreat at Ucross and the Sundance Theatre Lab at White Oak, the Program "identifies and assists emerging theatre artists, contributes to the creative growth of established artists, and encourages and supports the development of new work for the stage."

    Over 60 Sundance Theatre projects have gone on to productions at theatres across the United States, Mexico and Europe in the last seven years.

    Founded by Robert Redford in 1981, Sundance Institute is dedicated "to the development of artists of independent vision and the exhibition of their new work." Since its inception, the Institute has grown into an internationally recognized resource for filmmakers and other artists. Sundance Institute conducts national and international labs for filmmakers, screenwriters, composers, writers and theatre artists.