Humana Festival Launches in KY With Act a Lady and Six Years | Playbill

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News Humana Festival Launches in KY With Act a Lady and Six Years The 30th annual Humana Festival of New American Plays, underwritten by The Humana Foundation, will open March 7 at Actors Theatre of Louisville with Jordan Harrison's Act a Lady and Sharr White's Six Years.
Act a Lady Playwright Jordan Harrison.
Act a Lady Playwright Jordan Harrison.

The pair of plays is the first of 10 stage premieres (including six full-length works) slated to play in rep at the internationally recognized event March 7-April 8. Marc Masterson is the artistic director of Actors Theatre, the three-venue resident LORT company in downtown Louisville, KY. The Humana Festival gave The Gin Game, Crimes of the Heart, After Ashley and Keely and Du an early home.

Act a Lady plays ATL's 637-seat Pamela Brown Auditorium. Press opening is March 9 at 7:30 PM. Anne Kauffman directs the comedy about the transformative power of theatre.

"It's 1927 and the locals in the small Midwestern town of Waddleburg have decided to 'put on a play' to raise money for the Elks," according to ATL. "This is no ordinary play, however, because it requires the men to dress as women. As the three leading men spend more time in front of the footlights, gender lines blur and everything is up for grabs in this tale about the woman in every man, the man in every woman and the power of theatre to uncover both. As the play progresses, the stage world experience of living two lives begins to bleed into Waddleburg in surprisingly tangible forms. Ultimately, it's the story of these characters' journey to a more complex understanding of themselves and their desires."

Harrison's inspiration for Act a Lady came from a set of photos he happened upon while researching play ideas for a commission from Commonweal Theatre company in Lanesboro, MN (population 788). "Womanless Weddings," featuring the town's most prominent men dressed in wedding and bridesmaid gowns and staging a wedding, were popular in the Midwest from the 1920s to 1950s. "Harrison wondered how it must have felt to do farmwork all day and then totter around in high-heels, and Act a Lady was born," according to ATL.

Harrison's past Humana Festival premieres were Kid-Simple (2004) and the 10-minute play Fit for Feet (2003). Act a Lady continue to April 1. The creative team includes scenic designer Kris Stone, costume designer Lorraine Venberg, lighting designer Deb Sullivan, sound designer Benjamin Marcum and properties designer Doc Manning. The cast includes Paul O'Brien, Matt Seidman, Steven Boyer, Suzanna Hay, Cheryl Lynn Bowers and Sandra Shipley.

Six Years by Sharr White starts March 7 in the 318-seat Bingham Theatre. Press opening is March 10 at 7:30 PM. Directed by Hal Brooks, the play looks at the course of a relationship over 24 years in six-year increments.

"After six silent years, a man returns home to his wife shattered by all he witnessed in World War II," according to ATL. "This couple must see if they can put the pieces of his broken mind and their broken marriage back together. White takes a peek into their lives every six years, as they move through 24 tumultuous years of American history and as they struggle to make sense of the world, both inside and outside their home, together."

The characters in Six Years were developed by White for his 2003 Hotel Project in which two site-specific one-acts were performed in a Charlotte, North Carolina Marriott Hotel suite. When White couldn't get the play's couple off his mind, the one-act grew into the full-length Six Years.

White is making his Actors Theatre debut with this play. He is a two-time finalist for the Princess Grace Award and a winner of the Dr. Henry and Lillian Nesburn Award, part of the Julie Harris Award in Playwriting.

Six Years continues to April 1. The creative team includes scenic designer Paul Owen, costume designer Catherine F. Norgren, lighting designer Tony Penna, sound designer Matt Callahan, properties designer Mark Walston. The cast includes Michael J. Reilly, Kelly Mares, Harry Bouvy, Frank Deal, Marni Penning, Stephanie Thompson and Isaac Gardner.

The other four full-length plays in the festival are The Scene by Theresa Rebeck (March 11-April 2), Natural Selection by Eric Coble (March 16–April 8), Hotel Cassiopeia by Charles L. Mee (March 21-April 2) and Low's Journey by Rha Goddess (March 25–April 2).

The three 10-minute plays, Three Guys and a Brenda by Adam Bock, Sovereignty by Rolin Jones and Listeners by Jane Martin, will be presented on a single bill April 1 and 2.

Neon Mirage, a dramatic anthology by Liz Duffy Adams, Dan Dietz, Rick Hip-Flores, Julie Jensen, Lisa Kron, Tracy Scott Wilson and Chay Yew, will be performed March 25 and 31 and April 1.

Tickets can be purchased by calling the Actors Theatre box office at (502) 584-1205 or visiting


Acclaimed as one America's major new works festivals, the Humana Festival draws theatre lovers, journalists, film and stage producers from around the world with over 35 states represented in the audience each year. More than 350 Humana Festival plays have been published, creating a significant addition to the nation's dramatic literature. Recognized as a major force in revitalizing American playwriting, the festival is a celebrated birthplace for plays that have won many distinguished honors including three Pulitzer Prize-winning dramas.

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