The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts hosts its third annual Page-to-Stage New Play Festival Sept. 4-6, boasting more than 25 theatres from the D.C. metropolitan area, all presenting readings of new works at the prestigious arts institution.
Special events and panel discussions are part of the weekend, but for those with appetites for new voices and fresh work, the readings are the meat of the buffet.
The 2004 highlights include new works by celebrated novelist and poet Joyce Carol Oates and Olivier Award–nominated dramatist Moira Buffini, along with offerings from local playwrights, including a musical parody by Shawn Northrip and a historical drama by 2003 Charles MacArthur Award winner Ernie Joselovitz.
For writers whose work is just emerging, being heard under the roof of the Kennedy Center will be both inspiring and informative, said Mary H. Webb, a novelist from Berkeley, CA.
Webb is flying in to witness the first public reading of her play, Arguing About Every Single Thing. The work is inspired by her relationship with her son. She told Playbill On-Line there is something ego-boosting about being heard in the Kennedy Center ("I wouldn't care if it was in the basement!"), and that the Sept. 5 afternoon reading is a valuable opportunity for her and her director, Bill Largess, to learn from the experience.
"It's always helpful to hear actors read the dialogue and hear what they bring to the play," Webb said. "Because this is a relatively new play that hasn't been read before, a reading helps in the cutting and revising." The cast of Arguing includes Morgan Duncan and Shirleyann Kaladjian.
New musicals will be previewed on the Millennium Stage. Expect excerpts from works by Emmy Award–winning director Paris Barclay, five-time Tony Award nominee Michael John LaChiusa, and multiple Helen Hayes Award winner John Strand.
Participating companies include The Actors' Theatre of Washington, African Continuum Theatre Company, Catalyst Theater Company, Catholic University of America, The Center Company/Washington Women in Theatre, Charter Theatre, Cherry Red Productions, Firebelly Productions, The Georgetown Theatre Company, Theatre J, Metrostage, The Playwright's Forum, The Rorshach Theatre Company, Signature Theatre, Smallbeer Theater Company, Source Theatre Company, Theatre Alliance, Theater of the First Amendment, Trumpet Vine Theatre Company, Washington Stage Guild and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company.
Here are some of presentations and their sponsoring theatres:
The Actors' Theatre of Washington presents In the Time of Aten by Jeffrey Johnson. "This new play by ATW's artistic director is the tale of ancient Egyptian rulers Akhenaten and Nefertiti. Mystery, sex, and intrigue are intertwined with political betrayal, ancient prophesy, and murder." Sept. 4, 7:15-10 PM, North Atrium Foyer.
Catholic University of America presents four plays written by students from the CUA M.F.A. program: How the Ground was Healed and The Nitrogen Cycle by Deborah DeGeorge; Children of the Sea by Glen Sevilla Mas; and Interior Rift by Adam Lehmanis. Sept. 4, 2:30-5:30 PM, Terrace Gallery.
The Center Company/Washington Women in Theatre present Stella Adler by Sidra Rausch and directed by Karen Berman. "In the year 1949, legendary acting teacher Stella Adler struggles against all odds—including America's 'Red Scare' Communist blacklist—to start her conservatory." Sept. 4, 2:30-5:30 PM, North Atrium Foyer.
The Playwright's Forum presents The Left Hand of Justice by Ernie Joselovitch. "Following the Boston Massacre of 1770, John Adams defended the soldiers on charges of murder and found himself pitted against his mentor and older cousin Samuel Adams. This stirring production follows John Adams' journey from protégé to leader, from protest to revolution." (Ernie Joselovitz's Shakespeare, Moses, and Joe Papp won the Charles MacArthur Award for Best New Play in 2003. Sept. 4, 2:30-5:30 PM, South Atrium Foyer.
The Rorshach Theatre Company presenst Behold! by James Hesla and directed by Randy Baker. "Rorschach's artistic director stages this epic comedy about the ways in which myths shape our lives. Startling collisions of disparate characters and contradictory odysseys lead all paths to converge on one mysterious box whose contents could change the world forever." Sept. 4, 7:15-10 PM, South Atrium Foyer.
Smallbeer Theater Company presents three plays: Bound by Kate Taylor, I, Witness by Bari Biern, Lani Howe and Lynnie Raybuck and If It Bends by Channon Bernstein. Sept. 4, 2:30-5:30 PM, Film Theater.
Source Theatre Company presents McBeth's McTragic McMusical by Shawn Northrip, music by Christian Imboden. "Only one will survive the fast food war in this musical parody of Shakespeare's classic work. When McBeth literally kills his Burger Palace competition, a rhyming inspector appears on the scene. Meanwhile, three hip cashiers use Tarot to divine McBeth's future and conjure a series of apparitions straight out of McDonaldsland." Sept. 4, 8:30-10 PM, Film Theater. SEPT. 5
Catalyst Theater Company presents Motion Sickness by Christopher Gallu. "Peter can't stop moving from town to town, driven by his work and an unidentified illness. Wendy is the one constant in Peter's life and the only person who can see the true impetus behind his never-ending movement. Motion Sickness is the story of one night in the lives of two people searching for the same thing in different places." Sept. 5, 8:30-10 PM, North Atrium Foyer.
Charter Theatre presents Of a Sunday Morning by Richard Washer and directed by Keith Bridges. "In a society where terrorism and fear have created a strict code of conduct, any expression of thought, no matter how private, needs to be controlled. Who can be trusted, and who is really dangerous? This futuristic play featuring Helen Hayes Award winner Lee Mikeska Gardner explores one woman's spiritual quest for truth in a time when the only priority is national security." Sept. 5, 2:30-5:30 PM, Terrace Gallery.
Cherry Red Productions presents 9/11/XX by Ian Allen. "Alternately heartfelt and heartrending, the three acts of this new work tell the stories of events that have taken place throughout American history on September 11: the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre in southern Utah, the first televised Miss America Pageant in 1954, and the 2001 terrorist attacks." Sept. 5, 8:30-10 PM, Film Theater.
Firebelly Productions presents Conversing Elevens and Dunce by David Cahill. "In Conversing Elevens, a married couple's ids, egos, and superegos are led astray through an impromptu therapy session with a nosy waiter named Sigmund. In Dunce, three people are locked in a room, ignorant of their captors and unable to remember even their own names. With the past a blur, the trio searches for meaning in a stark, absurd present." Sept. 5, 7:15-10 PM, South Atrium Foyer.
Theatre Alliance presents Blavatsky's Tower by Moira Buffini and directed by Kerri Rambow. "Staying in is the new going out. Hector Blavatsky is dying, blind, and lives secluded with his three children. Ingrid tends her sky garden and transcribes his visions. Roland lives on a diet of daytime TV. And Audrey has a day job to keep them all supplied with stationery, mulch, and chocolate-topped sponge cakes. Chaos ensues when a young doctor tries to drag them into the 21st century." Sept. 5, 2:30-5:30 PM, South Atrium Foyer.
Washington Stage Guild presents Arguing About Every Single Thing by Mary H. Webb and directed by Bill Largess. "When a mother raises her son to be as strong-willed as she is, mutual respect and affection don't prevent frequent disagreements. As the two relive their adventures—from civil rights activism to backpacking through Africa—each learns to depend on the other for support and challenge." Featuring Morgan Duncan, Michael Glenn, Shirleyann Kaladjian. Sept. 5, 2:30-5:30 PM, North Atrium Foyer.
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company presents Belly of the Whale by Scott Organ and directed by Andrew Wassenich. "Henry's about to lose the whole popsicle. Laura's trying to shed a few pounds. Jack just came here for the work. Lily will help you discover the truth. Stu just wants to take his sister home. And Stan will change your mind. Don't miss this dark, modern comedy about the rat race, family ties, cults, and de-programming." Sept. 5, 2:30-5:30 PM, Film Theater. SEPT. 6
African Continuum Theatre Company presents Draft Day by Marvin McAllister and directed by Jennifer L. Nelson. "This dark fantasy explores the lives of two basketball players on the verge of skyrocketing into mega-media NBA careers. Illusions of slaves on the auction block populate this tale as two men discover the importance of standing one's ground." Sept. 6, 2:30-5:30 PM, Film Theater.
Theatre J presents The Tattooed Girl by Joyce Carol Oates. "John Vreeke directs prolific novelist and sometime playwright Joyce Carol Oates' play about the relationship between an ailing Jewish writer and a woman in his employ who harbors anti-Semitic views." A conversation with Joyce Carol Oates will follow. Sept. 6, 7:15-10 PM, Theater Lab.
Trumpet Vine Theatre Company presents Harlequin, Again! (or H,A!) by M. Magnus and featuring Evan Casey. "Will Harlequin triumph when a major corporation taps him to make them a fortune? Or will he take the fall while the CEOs walk away with millions? Commedia dell'Arte meets Wall Street in this hilarious rethinking of classic Italian theatre." Sept. 6, 2:30-5:30 PM, South Atrium Foyer. MUSICAL MILLENNIUM STAGE
Metrostage presents Becoming George, music by Linda Eisenstein, book and lyrics by Patti McKenny and Doug Frew, featuring Kat Taylor. "In revolution-torn France, Alexandre Dumas the Younger needs a hit show to outshine his famous father. He tempts retired feminist George Sand with a sizzling play of her life starring Sarah Bernhardt as the kind of revolutionary George used to be. In this witty new musical, Sand confronts her true role as an extraordinary woman living outside the lines." Sept. 4, 6-7 PM, Millennium Stage North.
Theater of the First Amendment presents In the Works: A New Musical Showcase. "Broadway veteran Andrea Frierson-Toney and a stellar ensemble featuring Steve Tipton, Jenna Sokolowski, Eric Lee Johnson and Eleasha Gamble perform selections from new musicals conceived in the Washington, D.C., area." Sept. 5, 6-7 PM, Millennium Stage North.
Signature Theatre presents selections from musicals in development including The Highest Yellow (music and lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa, book by John Strand); The Poe Project (music by Matt Conner, lyrics by Edgar Allen Poe and book by Norman Allen); One Red Flower (music and lyrics by Paris Barclay, adapted from the book "Dear America: Letters Home From Vietnam"). Sept. 6, 6-7 PM, Millenium Stage North. Programs and artists subject to change. All performances in the Terrace Theater, Theater Lab, Terrace Gallery, and Film Theater are ticketed.
Free tickets will be given out at the door to each of these venues on a first-come, first-serve basis beginning 30 minutes prior to the start of each performance. Seating is limited. Limit four tickets per person, subject to availability.
For more information, visit www.kennedy-center.org.