The Sundance Institute Theatre Program and the Ucross Foundation of Wyoming are hosting seven theatre writers on a northeastern Wyoming ranch to write, develop, research and share their new works. The seven artists — six playwrights and one composer — invited to participate in the program receive transportation, room and board during the three-week retreat, which began Feb. 3.
The participating writers, selected and invited by Philip Himberg, Sundance Theatre Program artistic director, and Robert Blacker, Sundance Theatre Laboratory artistic director, are: Playwrights Jessica Hagedorn, Charlayne Woodard, Christopher Shinn, Sunil Thomas Kuruvilla, Tracey Wilson, Victoria Stewart and composer Mark Bennett.
Both Himberg and Blacker are in residence as creative advisors during the retreat. The residence is a separate program from the Sundance Theatre Labs held in Utah every summer.
"The artists in this season's Playwrights Retreat reflect Sundance's commitment to supporting a wide range of writing for the stage," Himberg said in a statement. "Our collaboration with the esteemed Ucross Foundation is an important partnership for the Sundance Theatre program. With the generosity and expertise of the Ucross leadership, we are able to offer writers a quiet repose in which to create new work. This fits in perfectly with Sundance's vision for play development, which centers on our nationally recognized Theatre Lab, which convenes each summer in Utah."
The Sundance Playwright's Retreat at Ucross is seeing results. Two theatre projects that were written in part at Ucross will premiere at theatres in the coming months: Doug Wright's I Am My Own Wife, will premiere at Playwrights Horizons in New York in May; Adam Guettel and Craig Lucas' musical, The Light in the Piazza, opens at the Intiman Theatre in Seattle in June. *
Jessica Hagedorn is the author of the novels, "Dogeaters," "Danger And Beauty" and "The Gangster of Love," and has been nominated for the National Book Award. She adapted "Dogeaters" into a play at the Sundance Theatre Lab and began work on a screenplay version at the Sundance Screenwriters Lab. Dogeaters has been produced at The Public Theater in New York and La Jolla Playhouse in California. Theater Communications Group Press published the play script in December 2002. She is collaborating with Mark Bennett on a musical.
Charlayne Woodard's solo plays, Pretty Fire, Neat and In Real Life have received numerous nominations and awards for productions at theatres across the country, including the Mark Taper Forum, Seattle Rep and Manhattan Theatre Club. She is a Tony Award nominee and Obie-Award winning actress. At Ucross, she will work on a commission from the Taper and her first play for multiple actors.
Christopher Shinn's What Didn't Happen opened at Playwrights Horizons in late 2002. His play, Four, was seen last season at Manhattan Theatre Club and previously at the Royal Court Theatre in London. He is also the author of Where Do We Live, The Coming World and Other People.
Sunil Thomas Kuruvilla's Fighting Words premiered in November 2002 at Yale Repertory Theatre, where his play Rice Boy was also produced in the fall of 2000. He has received commissions from The Public Theater, Wilma Theater and South Coast Repertory, and is adapting Fighting Words for Showtime. He is a recent graduate of the Yale School of Drama.
Tracey Wilson was a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Award for The Story, which will be produced at Public Theater in the fall of 2003. Her first play, Exhibit Number 9, was produced by Theatre Outrageous in 2000; her second, Leader of the People, by New Georges in New York in 2001. At Sundance she will be working on a commission from Cornerstone Theatre Company.
Composer Mark Bennett has written music and designed sound on Broadway for The Goat, The Search For Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, A View From The Bridge and You Never Can Tell, among others. He has written two musicals for the Ridiculous Theatrical Company and is a 1998 Obie Award for Sustained Excellence in Sound Design and a 1998 Bessy Award for Dance Composition. At Ucross, he will be collaborating on a new musical with Jessica Hagedorn.
Victoria Stewart graduated from the University of Iowa Playwrights Workshop where her three plays Nightwatches, The Last Scene and 800 Words: The Transmigration of Philip K. Dick were produced as part of the Iowa New Play Festival. She has received the Richard Maibaum Award, the IRAM award and the Norman Felton fellowship and was a finalist for both the Francesca Primus Award and the Jerome Fellowship. Her 10-minute play, Down to Sleep, will be performed at the Humana Festival this month and her other plays have been performed in San Francisco, Boston and New York.
The Sundance Theatre Program is a program of the Sundance Institute founded by Robert Redford. Through its developmental activities at the Sundance Theatre Laboratory and the Sundance Playwright's Retreat at Ucross, 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 36 Sundance Theatre projects have gone on to productions at theatres across the United States, Mexico and Europe, in the last six years. *
For more information about the Sundance Theatre program, click here.