Last Chance: Humana Fest of New American Plays in KY Starts Final Week March 23-28

News   Last Chance: Humana Fest of New American Plays in KY Starts Final Week March 23-28
There are just six days left -- March 23-28 -- to take in any of six mainstage world-premiere works at Actors Theatre of Louisville's Humana Festival of New American Plays.

There are just six days left -- March 23-28 -- to take in any of six mainstage world-premiere works at Actors Theatre of Louisville's Humana Festival of New American Plays.

The five-week festival closes March 28 at the three-theatre ATL complex in Louisville, just blocks from the Ohio River.

Tickets are available for all but two performances. The March 23 performance of Naomi Iizuka's Aloha, Say the Pretty Girls, was cancelled due to sickness in the company (it returns in rep March 26 & 28), and David Rambo's God's Man in Texas -- a fest favorite -- is sold out March 23 (returning March 24, 26, 27 & 28).

Here is an overview of the final week of Humana:

* Cabin Pressure, a collaborative performance created by Anne Bogart and the Saratoga International Theatre Institute: After a year of public and private discussions with 47 diverse Louisville audience members, Bogart and Co. explore actor-audience relations, drawing on practices from Greek theatre festivals to past Humana fests. Using piece of texts by theatre artists and sections of plays by Edward Albee and Noel Coward, the buoyant vaudeville emerged as one of the favorites of the Special Visitors' Weekend -- attended by critics and industry folk -- March 19-21. Remaining shows are March 23-28. * Y2K by Arthur Kopit, directed by Bob Balaban: A 75-minute drama about a couple's "worst nightmare -- a world with no secrets -- with results that prove alarming, sinister and erotic." A couple's world is rocked by a computer hacker who punishes them electronically. Remaining shows are March 25 & March 27-28.

* The Cockfighter by novelist Frank Manley, adapted and directed by Vincent Murphy: Inspired by the courage and fierceness he associates with fighting cocks, a young man rebels against an adult world tainted by his father's flawed vision of manhood. The traditional bloodsport of cockfighting is presented in a "highly theatrical" way. Remaining shows are March 24 & 27.

* God's Man in Texas by David Rambo, directed by John Dillon: "A collision course" of "wits, egos and ideologies" with a preacher auditioning for a job at a Baptist ministry. A drama about institutional power struggles, fathers and sons and religion in the age of mass marketing. ATL regulars V. Craig Heidenreich, William McNulty and Bob Burrus helped make this one of the more popular stagings seen at the Special Visitors' Weekend (locals love it, too). Remaining shows are March 24 & 26-28.

* Aloha, Say the Pretty Girls by Iizuka, directed by ATL artistic director Jon Jory: A quirky look at how people enter and leave each other's lives as they search for a family or tribe. Remaining shows are March 26 & 28.

*Life Under 30, is the theme of the annual 10-minute play collection. Its focus is eight works by writers under 30, about life under 30, performed by actors under 30. The playwrights are Robb Badlam, Courtney Baron, Brooke Berman, Jerome Hairston, Julia Jordan, Matt Pelfrey, Caroline Williams and Sheri Wilner. Remaining shows are March 24-25 & March 27.


One of America's most-watched theatre events, the Humana Festival of New American Plays, began Feb. 23 with a performance of Aloha, Say the Pretty Girls, one of five full-length works and 25 new pieces at the Actors Theatre of Louisville.

Funded by the Humana Foundation, the festival is run on three stages of the Tony Award-winning ATL and draws local and regional theatregoers. The festival presents works in repertory and the pieces often go through honing and fine-tuning prior to a "special visitors weekend" (March 19-21) that includes international critics, producers and literary agents.

Two of the new works, Bogart's Cabin Pressure and Iizuka's Aloha, Say the Pretty Girls, are commissions by Actors Theatre of Louisville.


Bogart's experimental movement-and-text work, with international collaborators, has been seen previously at Humana, and Kopit's Hollywood satire, Bone-the-Fish had its debut there (later being renamed Road to Nirvana).

Other high-profile writers contributing brief works to the 1999 festival are Wendy Wasserstein (The Heidi Chronicles), Jane Martin (Keely and Du), David Henry Hwang (Golden Child), Tony Kushner (Angels in America), Richard Dresser (Below the Belt), Naomi Wallace (One Flea Spare), Mac Wellman (Sincerity Forever) and Diana Son (Stop Kiss).


In a programming gimmick sure to earn attention, the Humana Festival is also presenting "telephone plays, t-shirt plays" and a "car play," bumping the total number of festival works to 25.

The ideas:

* For "telephone plays," patrons enter one of several telephone booths in the ATL lobby, pick up the receiver and listen to three-minute plays unfold. The works are The Visitation by Becky Reynolds, Will You Accept the Charges? by Neal Bell, Happy Birthday Jack by Diana Son, Speech Therapy by Rebecca Gilman and Them by David Greenspan.

* The "t-shirt plays" can be presented by anyone; they are t-shirts on which a play is written, and are available for purchase only during the festival. They are being called "t(ext) shirts" and the works include Merchandising by David Henry Hwang, Stuffed Shirts by Jane Martin, Manifesto by Naomi Wallace, To T or Not to T by Wendy Wasserstein, The Fez by Mac Wellman and an untitled piece by Tony Kushner.

* For the "car play," What Are You Afraid Of? by Richard Dresser, groups of two and three will enter a car parked on the street in front of ATL with "an earnest young man who's off on the ride of his life with a free-spirited hitchhiker." Two casts and two directors, but only opne script (no alternate endings in the plot!).


The five major plays and the Life Under 30 one-acts are held on ATL's three stages: The intimate three-quarter Victor Jory, the quasi proscenium Pamela Brown and the arena-style Bingham Theatre.

Past works that began in the festival and went on to popular Broadway, film or regional success include The Gin Game, Agnes of God, Crimes of the Heart, Keely and Du, A Piece of My Heart, Talking With, Jack and Jill, Beast on the Moon, Below the Belt and others.

The festival is sponsored by the Humana Foundation, an arm of the Humana health care organization.

For information, call ATL's box office at (502) 584-1205. ATL's website is

-- By Kenneth Jones

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