The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
The Humana Festival of New American Plays will open the last week of February with five new plays and a high-flying show featuring the theater’s Acting Apprentice Company. It will be the first festival under the direction of Les Waters, who began his tenure as the theater’s artistic director last spring.
The shows are:
The Delling Shore by Sam Marks. Literary jealousy played out between two pairs of fathers and daughters. (Feb. 27-April 7)
Appropriate by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. When a family gathers to liquidate the late patriarch’s Arkansas plantation, they make a disturbing discovery that changes everything. (March 5-April 7)
Cry Old Kingdom by Jeff Augustin. An artist finds himself revived and endangered in Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier’s Haiti. (March 8-April 7)
Gnit by Will Eno. An Americanized re-reading of Henrik Ibsen’s 19th Century Norwegian play Peer Gynt. (March 15-April 7)
O Guru Guru Guru, or Why I Don’t Want to Go to Yoga Class With You by Mallery Avidon. A young woman explains the title. (March 20-April 7)
Sleep Rock Thy Brain by Rinnie Groff, Lucas Hnath and Anne Washburn. The Acting Apprentice Company will present the show March 22 to April 7 at the Lincoln Performing Arts School. The three playwrights explore sleep with the aid of Louisville’s ZFX Flying Effects.
Prospect native Naomi Wallace’s One Flea Spare will make its debut at the Comédie-Française, the national theater of France, April 28 to June 12.
In 2009, the play was accepted into the repertoire of the the 332-year-old theater, making Wallace and Tennessee Williams the only American playwrights with works in the theater, the oldest national theater in the western world.
Lexington audiences got a chance to see Wallace’s classic in a production by Balagula Theatre last fall that was in conjunction with the Kentucky Women Writers Conference’s new playwrighting competition, which Wallace judged. The winning play, Keliher Walsh’s Year of the Rabbit, concludes its run tonight at Balagula.
Wallace, who divides her time between Kentucky and England, attended the final performance of One Flea at Balagula in September. The play centers on class struggles that emerge in 1665 England during the plague. The play made its debut in 1995 at London’s Bush Theatre and had its United States premiere at Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Humana Festival of New American Plays in 1996. The 1997 production at New York’s Public Theatre received the Obie Award for best play.
Feb25Filed under: The Humana Festival of New American Plays, Theater, Transylvania University; Tagged as: Aloha Say the Pretty Girls, Eugene Ionesco, Humana Festival of New American Plays, Metamorphoses, Naomi Iizuka, Ovid, Polaroid Stories, Rhinoceros, Sullivan Canaday White, Transylvania University Theatre
The first show I saw at the Humana Festival of New American Plays was Aloha, Say the Pretty Girls in 1999. It was the second Humana show from Naomi Iizuka, a playwright who made a big Humana splash two years earlier with Polaroid Stories, a riff on Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
Aloha was billed as one of the young, hip plays in an edition of the festival that was trying very hard to be youthful and edgy – this was also the year of the t-shirt plays and the car play.
So more than a decade later, when Transylvania University Theatre announced Aloha would be part of its season, I was eager to revisit the show and see how well it held up. The hazard with things that try really hard to seem young and of-the-moment is they can often get stuck in that moment, and a lot has happened since 1999, when dial-up Internet seemed really high tech and we used cell phones to make phonecalls.
A lot had happened with Iizuka too, who went on to pen scripts such as the Orson Welles bioplay War of the Worlds and the the site-specific play about Louisville’s Butchertown neighborhood, At the Vanishing Point.
So this was an interesting chance to go back to go back and hear her voice when she was speaking on behalf of her generation.
A few things quickly emerged in Sullivan Canaday White’s rendition for Transy:
~ Iizuka was writing for a perpetual generation – young adults looking for their place in the world – not a specific time. Read the rest of this entry »
Nov9Filed under: Central Kentucky Arts News, Louisville, The Humana Festival of New American Plays, Theater; Tagged as: A Devil at Noon, A. Rey Pamatmat, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Adam Rapp, Allison Moore, Anne Washburn, Dan Dietz, Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them, Elemeno Pea, Humana Festival of New American Plays, Jennifer Haley, Jordan Harrison, Maple and Vine, Marco Ramirez, Molly Smith Metzler, The Edge of Our Bodies, The End
Actors Theatre of Louisville has announced the lineup for the 35th edition of the Humana Festival of New American Plays, which will be at the theater Feb. 27 to April 17.
As always, the festival will include six full-length productions and a selection of other works concentrated at the end of the event, when theater critics and professionals visit Louisville. The main stage lineup is:
A Devil at Noon by Anne Washburn, Feb. 27-April 3: The story of a science fiction writer with odd things happening in his life explores the pitfalls of dwelling in the imagination. Washburn has worked extensively in regional and Off-Broadway theater including current commissions from The Civilians, Playwrights Horizons, Soho Rep, and Yale Repertory Theatre.
Maple and Vine by Jordan Harrison, March 4-April 3: A couple forsakes 21st Century life to join a group of 1950s reenactors with surprising results. This is the fourth Humana premier for Harrison, whose previous Humana efforts include the full-length plays Act a Lady (2006) and Kid-Simple (2004) and the short Fit For Feet (2003).
Elemeno Pea by Molly Smith Metzler, March 8-April 3: An annual reunion of sisters raised in blue collar Buffalo, N.Y., turns into a big time culture clash that explores a number of questions about life and the choices people make. This is New York-based Metzler’s first Humana show, and it was developed through a partnership with New York University. She is an alumna of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them by A. Rey Pamatmat, March 11-April 2: It’s kinda hard to paraphrase ATL’s description which reads: “Sixteen-year-old Kenny and his little sister Edith are all but abandoned on a remote farm in Middle America. But when Kenny’s friend Benji starts encroaching on their makeshift family-and Edith shoots something she really shouldn’t shoot-the outside world comes barging in.” Pamatmat contributed to Humana’s 2007 Open Road Anthology and this work premiered as part of the New York Public Theatre’s 2010 New Work Now Series.
The End, an anthology by Dan Dietz, Jennifer Haley, Allison Moore, A. Rey Pamatmat and Marco Ramirez performed by ATL’s 2010/11 Acting Apprentice Company; March 18-April 3: The playwrights and apprentices explore the perpetual promise of apocalypse and what may be waiting on the other side. All of the writers are Humana Festival veterans.
The Edge of Our Bodies by Adam Rapp, March 22–April 3: The story focuses on a 16-year-old girl traveling to tell her boyfriend some big news. Rapp is an award-winning playwright whose Finer Noble Gases premiered at Humana in 2002 with former Lexington resident and recent Oscar nominee Michael Shannon in the cast.
BOB by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, March 24-April 17: Bob was born and abandoned in the bathroom of a Louisville White Castle and went on to greatness. Nachtrieb comes to Humana with the distinction of his boom being the most produced play in the United States during the 2009-10 season, according the Theatre Communications Group. In 2009, he collaborated in the Humana anthology BRINK!
Dec19Filed under: Balagula Theatre, Central Kentucky Arts News, Classical Music, Current Affairs, dance, Eastern Kentucky University, Inside baseball, Lexington Opera House, Louisville, Music, Rupp Arena, Singletary Center for the Arts, The Humana Festival of New American Plays, Theater, UK; Tagged as: Actors Theatre of Louisville, Allan Cowen, Balagula Theatre, Berea, Bill Owen, Building Arts Communities, Charles Compton, Charles Farnsley, Fund for The Arts, Humana Festival of New American Plays, Jim Newberry, Jon Jory, Louisville Orchestra, Michael Grice, Montgomery County Arts Center, Pam Miller, Pat Gerhard, Ron Smith, Singletary Center for the Arts, Stu Johnson, Third Street Stuff, WEKU
I teamed up with the news reporters at WEKU-88.9 FM last week for a four-part radio series, “Building Arts Communities.”
The series looked at recruiting talent, establishing arts districts, our theater infrastructure and the success of Louisville’s cultural scene.
It was an interesting opportunity to step back from the event-of-the-week cycle that artists and arts journalists can get absorbed in and take a look at what is and isn’t working, what’s here and what’s needed.
Some recurring themes emerged.
The biggest one crystallized in the final installment, Ron Smith’s report about Louisville.
“So how does a city make a name for itself in the arts?” Smith asked. “In Louisville’s case, success can be traced to vision and leadership. The sparkle of what could be was in the eye of Mayor Charles Farnsley in 1937, when he helped create the modern Louisville Orchestra. Twelve years later, Farnsley founded the Fund for the Arts, making Louisville the first community in the nation to gather arts groups together for an annual fund drive.”
Smith then chronicled how that vision was handed off to Fund for the Arts director Allan Cowen, who joked that his tombstone would bear the inscription, “We’ve got one more campaign, and it’s going to be a difficult one.”
Smith could have chronicled other visionary Louisville leaders, including Jon Jory, the Actors Theatre of Louisville director, who had this crazy idea of staging a festival of new plays in Louisville and inviting the nation’s producers and critics to see what was going on. Nearly a decade after Jory’s departure, the Humana Festival of New American Plays remains one of the biggest dates on the American theater calendar.
There were other examples of leadership on equal and smaller scales. Stu Johnson started his report about arts districts by talking about how Lexington artist Pat Gerhard’s vision for a groovy little coffee shop and store has made Third Street Stuff the anchor of a developing artsy area around Third Street and North Limestone.
Oct8Filed under: Central Kentucky Arts News, The Humana Festival of New American Plays, Theater, Woodford County Theatre; Tagged as: Actors Theatre of Louisville, Aubin Munn, Crish Barth, Dara Jade Tiller, Hill Cattle, Humana Festival of New American Plays, Joanna Jerome, Midway Festival of Plays, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Woodford Theatre
Woodford County may be a bedroom community of Lexington, but this weekend it is a hotbed of local theater.
Continuing in Versailles is The Woodford Theatre’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest, which got high marks from the H-L’s own Candace Chaney. Over in Midway, the Thoroughbred Theatre is opening the inaugural Midway Festival of Plays, a lineup of seven 10-minute plays.
The 10-minute format has its roots in Kentucky at Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Humana Festival of New American Plays, though we rarely get to see the format around here. In a nice little piece of synergy, Earnest features Dara Jade Tiller, a former Acting Apprentice at Actors Theatre who performed in the 2008 Humana Festival.
The whole Woodford theatrical weekend shows nice synergy in the area theater scene. Both productions are creations of Woodford Countians, but have drawn plenty of interest from the Lexington theater community and others.
So, if you’re looking for an excuse to take a little drive out through horse country this weekend, here it is.
Apr20Filed under: Film, Television, Theater, UK; Tagged as: Actors Guild of Lexington, Becky Shaw, Crumbs from the Table of Joy, Deb Shoss, Gina Gionfriddo, Humana Festival of New American Plays, In the Heights, KET, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Lynn Nottage, Mud, Poof!, Pulitzer Prize, Quiara Alegría Hudes, River, Rosie Perez, Ruined, Stone, Viola Davis
Lynn Nottage’s Ruined has won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, besting the Broadway hit In the Heights, by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes; and Gina Gionfriddo’s Becky Shaw, which had its world premier at the 2008 Humana Festival of New American Plays.
Lexington has actually seen quite a bit of Nottage’s work and even the playwright herself. Early in the Fall of 2002, Nottage seemed to be all the rage in the Horse Capitol. KET filmed her short play Poof!, about a woman whose abusive husband spontaneously combusts, with Rosie Perez and Viola Davis, at the same time Actors Guild of Lexington was preparing a production of her play, Crumbs from the Table of Joy. The film brought Nottage to town, and she paid the Actors Guild cast a visit, talking to them about Crumbs’ clash of blues and be-bop culture. During Deb Shoss’ tenure as AGL artistic director, the theater also produced Nottage’s Mud, River, Stone and in 2006, the University of Kentucky presented her Intimate Apparel.
Nottage can add the Pulitzer to a list of a highly prestigious grants she’s received, including a 2005 Guggenheim Fellowship and 2007 MacArthur Genius Grant. Ruined, currently playing at New York’s Manhattan Theatre Club, is about women during a brutal civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich