For anyone interested in the creative process behind the development of live theatre, there really is no better way to see that process at work locally than to attend TheatreSquared’s annual Arkansas New Play Fest.
T2 on Tuesday announced the lineup for the 2011 event, set for May 19-22 at Nadine Baum Studios in Fayetteville.
Each year, the festival centers around the development of four new theatrical works. For example, TheatreSquared’s recent hit play, Sundown Town, was developed over the past two years during the annual events.
New plays with no prior productions are selected from a pool of submissions, and each playwright is brought to Northwest Arkansas to work with experienced directors and professional actors to further develop the script. At the end of the process, plays are performed for the public with script in hand, and audiences are invited to stay after the show for a conversation with the playwright, director and actors to help shape the script’s further development.
New works to be developed at this year’s festival include Disfarmer by Werner Trieschmann, In The Book Of by John Walch, They Want by Alan Berks, and The Spiritualist by T2 Artistic Director Robert Ford. The four new works will be performed at Nadine Baum Studios in Fayetteville on Thursday and Friday this year, and thanks to a new partnership with Arkansas Repertory Theatre, the new plays will also be performed on Saturday and Sunday at Argenta Community Theater in Little Rock.
“TheatreSquared is passionate about cultivating great new works for the stage, and we’re thrilled to be collaborating in that venture this year with the Arkansas Rep,” said T2 Artistic Director Robert Ford. “This year, more than 100 artists will participate in the Arkansas New Play Fest—a major undertaking.”
Other highlights of the event also include an improv showcase, a young playwrights showcase, and the sixth annual installment of the 24-Hour Play-Off.
Tickets are $7 (staged reading performances), $10 (comedy improv showcase and the 24-Hour Play-Off), or $30 for a New Play Pass including all ten events, and can be reserved starting April 27 by calling the Walton Arts Center box office at 479-443-5600 or online at waltonartscenter.org. The lineup of events in Fayetteville will take place at Walton Arts Center’s Nadine Baum Studios, located at 505 W. Spring Street.
Arkansas New Play Festival Lineup (Northwest Arkansas)
Thursday, May 19
5:30 p.m. – Opening Reception (sponsored by BHK Kafé, Jammin’ Java)
6:30 p.m. – Disfarmer by Werner Trieschmann
8:30 p.m. – The Spiritualist by Robert Ford
Friday, May 20
6:30 p.m. – They Want by Alan Berks
8:30 p.m. – In The Book Of by John Walch
Saturday, May 21
1:00 p.m. – Works in Progress, Arkansas Playwrights Workshop (Free)
3:00 p.m. – National Writing Project Readings (Free)
6:30 p.m. – The Poe Show, by Jordan Haynes, Morgan Hicks, & Kris Stoker Cancelled
9:00 p.m. – Comedy Improv Showcase, featuring Dan’s Party, Phunbags Comedy Improv, and musical guests Black & Tan
Sunday, May 22
2:00 p.m. – The Arkansas Young Playwrights Showcase (Free)
6:30 p.m. – The 24-Hour Play-Off (Performances and judging)
Play descriptions and information provided by TheatreSquared:
Disfarmer – Werner Trieschmann
The first new play, Disfarmer, by award-winning Arkansas playwright Werner Trieschmann, returns after two years’ further development since its debut at the festival in 2009. This comedic portrait tells the story of Disfarmer, an eccentric photographer from Heber Springs, Arkansas who charged townsfolk and visitors a quarter to have their picture taken in the early forties—and caused a minor speculative mania decades later as New York gallery owners “discovered” his work and descended on the small Arkansas town. Directed by Kate Frank and performed Thursday, May 19 at 6:30 p.m.
The Spiritualist – Robert Ford
The Spiritualist is a new work-in-progress by TheatreSquared’s artistic director and playwright-in-residence, Robert Ford. Inspired by true events, the play introduces Rosemary Dunn, and English widow who cooks for the school meals service—and communes with the spirits of dead composers. When an enterprising American reporter tries to unmask the self-proclaimed psychic as a fraud, he finds there may be more at play than simple musical sleight-of-hand. Directed by Michael Landman (The 39 Steps, Rabbit Hole) and performed Thursday, May 19 at 8:30 p.m.
They Want – Alan Berks
They Want, by Minneapolis-based playwright Alan Berks, dramatically explores the private struggles of a powerful family during a time of war. A modern retelling of the Oresteia by Greek tragedian Aeschylus, They Want revolves around a debt of vengeance forged by fateful choices made by the head of the household, the nation’s powerful Minister of War. A journalist entry into the family’s inner sanctum upsets a delicate balance, and unleashes a dangerous chain of events. Directed by Robert Ford (Drawer Boy) and performed Friday, May 20 at 6:30 p.m.
In The Book Of – John Walch
In The Book Of, by New York-based playwright John Walch, is an engaging new play that re-imagines the biblical book of Ruth in the modern day. Naomi, a U.S. Army Lieutenant stationed near Kabul, and Anisah, her Afghan translator, are reeling from the losses of both their husbands in Afghanistan. When Naomi is discharged and prepares to return to the States with her adult son, Anisah unexpectedly asks to go with them. A simple leap of faith brings this unlikely pair to a small town in Mississippi, where love and tolerance struggle to overcome hatred and fear as they try to rebuild their lives. Directed by Amy Herzberg (‘Twas the Night, Moonlight and Magnolias, The Last Five Years, Bad Dates) and performed Friday, May 20 at 8:30 p.m.
Arkansas Playwrights Workshop
TheatreSquared is hosting two free public events in the afternoon of Saturday, May 21. At 1:00 p.m., the Arkansas Playwrights Workshop, a group of local writers who meet monthly to read and develop new scripts, will present readings from works in progress.
National Writing Project
At 3:00 p.m., Northwest Arkansas teachers participating in the National Writing Project, a countrywide service program, will present free readings of works developed during this school year’s writing initiatives.
The Poe Show
At 6:30 p.m. on May 21, T2 veterans Jordan Haynes, Liam Selvey and Sean Phillip Mabrey along with Artists Laboratory Theatre co-founder Erika Wilhite will present The Poe Show, featuring a group of actors with a fast-paced, interactive—and somewhat unorthodox—take on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Written and developed by TheatreSquared, this new work will tour to Arkansas junior highs and high schools during the fall of 2011.
Northwest Arkansas Comedy Improv Showcase
At 9:00 p.m. on May 21, TheatreSquared presents the Northwest Arkansas Comedy Improv Showcase, featuring popular local troupes Dan’s Party, Phunbags Comedy Improv and musical guests Black & Tan. Audiences are invited to join in for a night of spontaneous comedy created on the spot‐and to set the scene for laughter with their suggestions and ideas.
Arkansas Young Playwrights Showcase
In partnership with the University of Arkansas Brown Chair of Literacy, TheatreSquared is proud to present, for the third year, the Arkansas Young Playwrights Showcase. Students from across the region have been invited to submit scripts, and five have been selected for public readings at the Arkansas New Play Fest. The free public readings will take place Sunday, May 22, at 2:00 p.m.
Finally, TheatreSquared is partnering with Fayetteville-based Ceramic Cow Productions to present the 24-Hour Play-Off, a perennial favorite for artists and audiences alike. In competition for the $500 Jury Prize, sponsored by a group of Fayetteville businesses, six teams of five artists will write, rehearse, and perform a new ten-minute play—all within the space of 24 hours. Artists from throughout the region are invited to participate by completing an application at theatre2.org. The public performance and judging will take place on Sunday, May 22 at 6:30 p.m.