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The Thrill of the New

By Rick Pender · March 4th, 2009 · Curtain Call

For some reason, February and March seem to be a time when many theaters go into creativity overdrive and produce new works. I recently attended the fourth annual Colorado New Play Summit, presented by the Denver Center Theatre Company, where I heard readings of four new scripts plus a revised version of Meredith Willson’s 1960 musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown, which is working its way toward an eventual Broadway production. (It was staged by directorchoreographer Kathleen Marshall, whose credits include multiple Tony Awards for The Pajama Game and Wonderful Town.)

That mid-February weekend in Denver also included two fully staged plays, first read at the 2008 summit: Dusty and the Big Bad World by Cusi Cram, a thoughtful comedy about political pressures brought to bear on a PBS kids program that crosses the line when it includes an episode about a girl whose dads are gay, and Inana by Michele Lowe, a drama about an Iraqi museum curator trying to protect and preserve the statue of an ancient goddess on the eve of the American invasion of Baghdad. (Photo at top is of Piter Marek, left, and Mahira Kakkar in Inana.)

Lowe will bring something new to Cincinnati next season, it appears.

Her Denver program bio states, “Her play Victoria Musica will receive its world premiere at Cincinnati Playhouse during its 2009-2010 season.” That news hasn’t been released locally, but audiences here will remember several of her plays: The Smell of the Kill was presented at the Playhouse in 2003 and String of Pearls was a popular offering at Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati in 2006.

A week after returning from Denver, I was at UC’s College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) for Transmigration, a collection of six brief, student-created works staged in two rehearsal halls and a lobby space. A kind of mini-fringe festival, the works were serious, laugh-out-loud funny, thoughtful and sometimes a bit silly. Transmigration gave CCM drama students a chance to exercise the full range of creating theater, from writing to staging to promoting.

I look forward to attending the 33rd annual Humana Festival of New American Plays later this month. Actors Theatre of Louisville annually presents full productions of a half-dozen new scripts by up-and-coming playwrights and well-established writers. Theater professionals and critics from around America (and around the world, in fact) will see new work by the poetic collective Universes, avant-garde writer Charles Mee, prize-winning playwright Naomi Wallace and others.

There’s also an opportunity to witness creativity locally this weekend. It’s New Edgecliff Theatre’s Cincinnati Directors Competition III, an unusual combination of talent contest and theater slam, showcasing 30-minute performances staged by six directors, three on Friday evening and three more on Saturday. The winners from each evening will be presented again on Sunday at 2 p.m., with prizes of $500 and $250 up for grabs. Stop by the Columbia Performance Center (3900 Eastern Ave., Columbia-Tusculum) to see work by promising young directors (and some veterans, too) performed by acting talent from our fine theater community. Get more details here.

It’s kind of like the sap starting to run in the trees, I think. Can spring be far behind with all this creativity flowing?

CONTACT RICK PENDER: rpender@citybeat.com



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