Secrets of Commune Life Unearthed in Dohrn's Magic Forest Farm Starting April 22

By Kenneth Jones
April 22, 2009

Zayd Dohrn's Magic Forest Farm, about a young woman's return to the Northern California commune where she was raised, gets its world premiere April 22 by Marin Theatre Company in Mill Valley, CA.

Ryan Rilette directs the staging of the play, which won Marin Theatre Company's First Sky Cooper New American Play Prize. The play opens at MTC April 26 and continues to May 17 in the troupe's 99-seat Lieberman Theatre.

Playwright Dohrn is the son of William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, founders of the 1960s radical organization The Weather Underground. He was born underground and grew up in communes and hideouts across the country, according to MTC.

The Magic Forest Farm cast features MTC veterans Julia Brothers (Eleanor); Anna Bullard (Swan); Avery Monsen (Ben); Laura Morache (Allegra); and Robert Sicular (Marvin); plus Marin newcomer David Cramer (Gabby).

In the Magic Forest Farm, according to MTC, "Seventeen-year-old Allegra is beginning to piece together the swirling memories of her early years in the beautiful woods of Northern California on a mystical commune called Magic Forest Farm. Mixing with joyous recollections of waterfalls and wildflowers are darker revelations and startling images of the people she thinks she trusts most. A journey begins that takes Allegra back to the commune, back to the past, to confront the truth."

The coming-of-age story is set in 1989, in Allegra Behrman-Cohen's La Jolla family home and the Magic Forest Farm commune, and "revisits her family life from a decade past." Her "extended family includes her father, English professor, Marvin, mother Eleanor, brother Ben, and commune members Gabby Hoyle and his daughter Swan."

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MTC artistic director Jasson Minadakis stated, "Zayd Dohrn is a thrilling find for our first Sky Cooper winner. Magic Forest Farm is a deeply insightful play about coming of age in California for a spirited young daughter of parents who turned their backs on the commune culture. We are honored to introduce you to Zayd Dohrn."

His plays have been produced and developed at Marin Theatre Company, A.C.T., The Public Theater, Woolly Mammoth, Kitchen Dog Theater, South Coast Repertory, The Alliance Theatre, Southern Rep, Berkshire Theatre Festival, Boston Playwrights' Theatre, New Jersey Repertory Company and Alchemy Theatre of Manhattan. In addition to the Sky Cooper New American Play Prize, he is a recipient of Lincoln Center's Lecomte du Nouy Prize, the Jean Kennedy Smith Award, an IRNE for Best New Play, and residencies with Ars Nova, Chautauqua, and the Royal Court Theatre of London. He received his MFA from New York University and is a recipient of a Lila Acheson Wallace Fellowship from Juilliard.

Magic Forest Farm will be director Ryan Rilette's first production at MTC. He joined MTC as producing director after six years as producing artistic director at Southern Rep Theatre, the premiere professional theatre of New Orleans.

A staged reading of Magic Forest Farm was produced in May 2008 as part of MTC's 2007-08 Nu Werkz series.

The play contains nudity and is not appropriate for children.

For more information visit www.marintheatre.org or call (415) 388-5208.

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Entering its 42nd year, Marin Theatre Company is one of only five LORT theatres in the Bay Area, and is the largest professional regional theatre company located in San Francisco’s North Bay. It produces an annual season of more than 200 performances on its two stages.

Norton J. "Sky" Cooper established the New American Play Prize at MTC in 2007 "to recognize the work of the American playwright and encourage the creation of bold, powerful new voices and plays for the American stage."

The Sky Cooper Prize will be awarded annually to a playwright for an outstanding new work. Each play selected as the Sky Cooper winner receives a full production at MTC as part of the theatre's annual season and will be given regional and national promotion.

In addition, the playwright receives a $10,000 award, as well as travel and accommodations for the MTC rehearsal period.

MTC received 875 play submissions for the 2008 competition from across the country. Approximately 20 percent of the submissions came from California playwrights.