Want to get a big dose of new theater? You’ll want to spend some time in Louisville next March and April, when Actors Theatre of Louisville presents its 33rd consecutive Humana Festival of New American Plays. Productions begin on March 1, 2009, and continue through April 11. The 2009 festival will present six full-length plays, a comic anthology showcasing the Actors Theatre Acting Apprentice Company and three 10-minute plays. Plays are presented in repertory, so if you stay in Louisville for a few days or a weekend, you can see several productions.
Humana plays are noted by theaters across America, often picked up for subsequent production elsewhere. Full-length scripts for 2009 are Wild Blessings: A Celebration of Wendell Berry adapted for the stage by Artistic Director Marc Masterson and Adrien-Alice Hansel from works by Kentucky poet Wendell Berry; Absalom by Zoe Kazan; Under Construction by Charles L. Mee; Slasher by Allison Moore; Ameriville by UNIVERSES (a New York City-based ensemble of multi-disciplined writers and performers who fuse poetry, theater, Jazz, Hip-Hop, Politics, Blues and more to create new onstage works); and The Hard Weather Boating Party by Kentucky playwright Naomi Wallace. BRINK! is a comic anthology with material from six contributors: Lydia Diamond, Kristoffer Diaz, Greg Kotis (one of the creators of Urinetown), Deborah Zoe Laufer, Peter Sinn Nachtrieb and Deborah Stein. Here are further details:
Wild Blessings: A Celebration of Wendell Berry, adapted for the stage by Marc Masterson and Adrien-Alice Hansel from the writing of Wendell Berry. (Masterson is the artistic director at Actors Theatre; he will stage the show.) An exploration of the earth, its citizens and the impact of each on the other. This world premiere brings Berry’s work to the stage in a celebration of words and music. The acclaimed poet, novelist and ecological visionary was born in Henry County, Ky. He has taught at Georgetown College, Stanford University, New York University and his alma mater, the University of Kentucky. The author of more than 40 books of poetry, essays and fiction, he has received numerous fellowships and awards. He lives and works on a farm in Port Royal, Ky.
Absalom by Zoe Kazan. At a Berkshires country house, the children of an aging literary giant gather for a party celebrating the release of their patriarch’s tell-all autobiography. When an unexpected guest appears, this family — who are all writers or editors — must reckon with their stories and who owns them, and with the secrets, betrayals and bonds that define what they’ll do for love. The playwright is an actor/writer who lives in Brooklyn. This is her first play.
Under Construction by Charles L. Mee. (This production is directed by Anne Bogart and created and performed by her SITI Company.) A collage of America today, inspired by Norman Rockwell and contemporary installation artist Jason Rhoades, this play juxtaposes the 1950s and the present, red states and blue, where we grew up and where we live now. Like America, this play is permanently under construction. Other plays by Mee include Big Love, True Love, First Love, bobrauschenbergamerica, Summertime and Wintertime. His works are all available online: charlesmee.org. Bogart’s SITI Company, one of America’s most admired experimental theater companies, has a long history of creative collaboration, both with Mee and with Actors Theatre.
Slasher by Allison Moore. When she’s cast as the “last girl” in a low-budget slasher flick, Sheena thinks it’s the big break she’s been waiting for. But news of the movie unleashes her malingering mother’s thwarted feminist rage, and Mom is prepared to do anything to stop filming … even if it kills her. The playwright is a displaced Texan living in Minneapolis. Her plays include End Times, American Klepto, Hazard County (which was part of Actors Theatre’s 2005 Humana Festival), Urgent Fury and Eighteen.
Ameriville by UNIVERSES. This unusual company puts the state of the Union under a microscope — race, poverty, politics, history and government — to examine the U.S. through the lens of Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans. Ameriville combines poetry, music, movement and drama to get to the heart of an American tragedy.
The Hard Weather Boating Party by Naomi Wallace. Three men, almost strangers, meet in a hotel room to plan an ugly crime against a powerful adversary. Inspired by historical research on Louisville’s Rubbertown neighborhood, the play portrays the struggle between industrial greed and growth and the health of the community. Wallace’s works have been produced in the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States.
The comic anthology BRINK! explores rites of passage from first dates to marriage, from birth to death and from hiring to firing. Actors Theatre’s 22 acting apprentices perform the brief sketches by six different playwrights.
The 10-minute plays, presented in a few performances near the end of the festival, have not yet been announced.
For more information, go to actorstheatre.org.