Will Zahrn, Alana Arenas, Jay Whittaker, Mary Ann Thebus Among Players in Steppenwolf "First Look" Fest

News   Will Zahrn, Alana Arenas, Jay Whittaker, Mary Ann Thebus Among Players in Steppenwolf "First Look" Fest
Casting has been announced for the new plays by Sam Marks, Robert O'Hara and Jason Wells that will be explored in full developmental productions in Steppenwolf Theater Company's sixth annual First Look Repertory of New Work.

The full stagings (not billed as world premieres) will be seen in rep Oct. 27–Nov. 14 in Steppenwolf's Merle Reskin Garage Theatre in Chicago. The 2010 festival will also include three free readings by emerging playwrights Nov. 5-7 at Steppenwolf's Upstairs Theatre; casting was also announced for the readings.

Here are the plays, playwrights and performers of First Look's full-production series:

The Etiquette of Vigilance
By Robert O'Hara
Directed by Timothy Douglas
Featuring ensemble member Alana Arenas with Alfred H. Wilson
Oct. 27–Nov. 14

"Over 50 years have passed since Travis and his parents became the first black family to integrate Chicago's segregated Clybourne Park neighborhood. Now Lorraine, Travis' only daughter and the first in her family to attend college, is buckling under the pressure of her family's long deferred dream. In this contemporary reconsideration of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun, O'Hara's poignant new play imagines what might have happened to the beleaguered Younger family — and asks us to consider the wounds still healing from the days of city-sanctioned segregation."

O'Hara won the 2010 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding New Play for Antebellum, produced at the Woolly Mammoth Theater Company. His Insurrection: Holding History received the Oppenheimer Award for Best New American Play in its world premiere at the New York Shakespeare Festival, which he also directed. His other widely produced works include Good Breeding, Brave Brood and American Maul. He also rewrote The Wiz for its revival at La Jolla Playhouse, directed by Des McAnuff.

The Old Masters
By Sam Marks
Directed by Daniel Aukin
Featuring Anne Adams, Natasha Lowe and Jay Whittaker
Oct. 28–Nov. 14

"Ben Schmitt is an artist attempting to make peace with married life and impending fatherhood when Henry, his reclusive friend from childhood, suddenly disappears. When Henry's girlfriend Lara shows up with paintings he mysteriously left behind, Ben is compelled to hand the work over to a dealer. Before long, the art world hungrily latches onto Henry's paintings and his tragic life story. As Lara and Ben find themselves at the center of their missing friend's burgeoning fame, they begin to wonder: what about us?" Marks' play The Joke premiered at Studio Dante under the direction of Sam Gold. His other New York productions include Nelson at Lion Theater at Theater Row directed by Kip Fagan, Which Wolf is Wolf at HERE and Craft at Flea Theater and HERE. He received his MFA from Brown University.

The North Plan
A new play by Jason Wells
Directed by Kimberly Senior
Featuring Jennifer Engstrom, Tom Hickey, Timothy Edward Kane, Brian King, Dorcus Sowunmi and Will Zahrn
Oct. 29–Nov. 14

"In the not-so-distant future, America is at the mercy of unchecked martial law after a massive government breakdown. Wells' dark comedy centers on Carlton Berg, a government employee imprisoned in a small-town Missouri jailhouse who claims to possess a giant database containing the names of every American citizen slated for persecution by the new regime. His only hope comes in the form of fellow inmate Tanya, an abrasive drunk driver, and Shonda, the jail's law-abiding administrative assistant."

Wells' first play, Men of Tortuga, had a critically-acclaimed debut during First Look 2005 and went on to a run at the Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota and returned to Chicago for a production at Profiles Theatre. His second play, Perfect Mendacity, debuted at First Look 2008 and also went on to its official world premiere at the Asolo.

The dramaturgs for the full stagings are Rebecca Rugg (The Etiquette of Vigilance), Sarah Slight (The Old Masters) and Joy Meads (The North Plan).

The designers for First Look 2010 include Scott Neale (sets), Elizabeth Flauto (costumes), Marcus Doshi (lights) and Rick Sims (sound). The stage managers include Angela M. Adams (The Etiquette of Vigilance) Jonathan Nook (The North Plan) and Adam Ganderson (The Old Masters). Polly Carl is the Festival producer, Whitney Dibo is the Festival assistant.

The First Look 2010 Free Readings are:

That Kid Thing
By Sarah Gubbins
Directed by Joanie Schultz
Featuring Sean Cooper, Park Krausen, Kelli Simpkins, Wendi Weber and Sarah Welborn
Nov. 5 at 3 PM

"Lesbian couples Lee & Darcy and Nate & Margot are the closest of friends — that is, until a dinner party announcement brings major change. It's all fun and games until someone mentions 'the kid thing' in this new play about attraction, maternal instinct and parenthood."

Gubbins is a Chicago playwright whose play Fair Use was developed and produced during First Look 2008. Her plays have also been read or developed at the Public Theater, About Face Theatre, Chicago Dramatists, Next Theatre Company and Collaboraction.

4,000 Miles
By Amy Herzog
Directed by Matthew Miller
Featuring Rob Fenton, Deanna Myers, Kathleen Romond and Mary Ann Thebus
Nov. 6 at 11 AM

"After losing his best friend, 20-something Leo seeks refuge in his feisty 91-year old grandmother's New York City apartment. A sharp-witted play about becoming unstuck, 4,000 Miles examines how we move forward in today's world — when we're not, or don't want to be, part of the mainstream."

Herzog's After the Revolution is being produced at Williamstown during summer 2010 and she recently completed commissions for the Yale Repertory Theatre and the Williamstown Theatre Festival. She received the 2008 Helen Merrill Award for Aspiring Playwrights.

By Laura Marks
Directed by Krissy Vanderwarker
Featuring Brenda Barrie, Mica Cole, Julie Ganey, Levi Holloway, Lia Mortensen and David Pasquesi
Nov. 7 at noon

"Crystal, a single mom who works at a struggling car dealership, will do anything to get her life back together. A timely meditation on recession-era morality, Bethany explores the lengths to which we'll go for both family and finances."

Marks' previously produced works include Unbound and Hypothesis, both at Prospect Theater Company. She is also a member of the Public Theater's 2010 Emerging Writers Group and will be entering Juilliard's playwriting program.

The mission of First Look Repertory of New Work is "to develop plays for future production at Steppenwolf and other theatres across the country."

Since it began, nine of the 15 plays presented during First Look's first five seasons have played subsequent world premieres at other theatre.

For ticket and information, visit www.steppenwolf.org.


Steppenwolf also announced the continuation of First Look 101, a three-month experience from Sept. 25-Nov. 14, "that takes enrolled participants on a backstage journey through all aspects of the new play development process — from the first rehearsal to the final performance. The program is open to anyone interested in the process of creating new plays."

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