TheatreSquared’s Arkansas New Play Fest set for June 19-28

TheatreSquared Artistic Director and playright Robert Ford (right) participates in a discussion during last year’s Arkansas New Play Festival.

Photo: Courtesy, TheatreSquared

Arkansas’ premier celebration of new works for the American stage kicks off this week in Fayetteville and Little Rock.

TheatreSquared’s Arkansas New Play Festival, the annual event featuring some of the best contemporary playwrights working today, is set for June 19-28.

Event poster

This year’s festival will include five plays that will be developed with playwrights in residence at TheatreSquared over three intensive weeks, and then performed for the public for the first time in a either a workshop or staged reading format.

The new plays set to debut at this year’s event include Uncle, the newest play by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award nominee Lee Blessing; The Quest for Don Quixote, a new adaptation by Mark Brown (Around the World in 80 Days); Dust, by Sundance Fellow and Arkansas native Qui Nguyen; Fault, by T2 Artistic Director Robert Ford; and The Dingdong: Or, How the French Kiss, Mark Shanahan’s new adaptation of the classic Feydeau farce, slated for its off-Broadway premiere in 2016.

“It’ll be a rich and exciting festival,” Ford said “Every kind of comedy from low-brow to high, plus some sharp social commentary. Scripts that are still in their infancy. Another that’s already slated for off-Broadway. And an amazing group of actors, directors and playwrights.”

The festival kicks off with an opening reception in Fayetteville on Friday, June 19 catered by Table on the Hill, followed by a staged reading of Fault that evening. The full schedule of festival events are listed below. All of the Fayetteville events will take place at TheatreSquared’s intimate 175-seat theatre inside Nadine Baum Studios.

Two performances are scheduled at Little Rock’s Arkansas Repertory Theatre on June 27, including Dust (2 p.m.) and Uncle (7 p.m.)

Another highlight of the event is ninth annual 24-Hour Play Off, featuring teams of artists creating ten-minute plays with just 24 hours to write, rehearse, and perform their original production. Performances of the 24-Hour Play Off plays are set for Sunday June 21 at Nadine Baum Studios.

The event will also include the Arkansas Young Playwrights Showcase, featuring 10 minute plays by Arkansas high school students on Saturday June 27.

Full-event passes for the event are on sale now for $40 at Walton Arts Center’s website. Single tickets to individual events range from $7-15, and are also on sale now.

2015 Arkansas New Play Festival Schedule

Friday, June 19
6:30 p.m. – Opening Reception
7:30 p.m. – Fault

Saturday, June 20
2 p.m. – Dust
7:30 p.m. – The Dingdong: Or, How the French Kiss

Sunday, June 21
2 p.m. – Uncle
6 p.m. – The 24 Hour Play-Off

Thursday, June 25
8 p.m. – The Quest for Don Quixote

Friday, June 26
5:30 p.m. – The Dingdong: Or, How the French Kiss
8 p.m. – The Quest for Don Quixote

Saturday, June 27
2 p.m. – The Quest for Don Quixote
5:30 p.m. – Young Playwrights Showcase
8 p.m. – The Quest for Don Quixote

Little Rock
2 p.m. – Dust by Qui Nguyen
7 p.m. – Uncle by Less Blessing

Sunday, June 28
2 p.m. – Uncle
7 p.m. – Dust

The Plays

Descriptions provided by TheatreSquared

The Quest for Don Quixote

Adapted by Mark Brown from Miguel de Cervantes, directed by Mark Shanahan

Playwright Ben Eisenberg sits in a Starbucks, just one day before his epic adaptation of Don Quixote begins rehearsal. There’s just one problem — he hasn’t written it. His agent is apoplectic, the advance is long since spent, and adapting a 1000-page Renaissance adventure is beginning to feel a bit like, well, tilting at windmills. But then—whether from a stroke of genius or a near-lethal dosage of caffeine and Xanax—Starbucks itself begins to transform, and the errant knight arises in this delightfully theatrical, hilarious retelling of Cervantes’s classic tale. Playwright Mark Brown’s adaptation of Around the World in 80 Days (T2, 2014) was one of the nation’s top-produced titles in 2014.


by Qui Nguyen

Spanning Ho Chi Minh City to El Dorado, Arkansas, Dust is the story of Thuy, a girl who sets out to find her ex-G.I. father—who has kept her existence a secret from his wife for 16 years. Blending live hip-hop, raw emotion and wry wit, Dust recasts the American dream through the eyes of an Amer-Asian teenager in this redemptive, cross-cultural coming-of-age story. The newest work by Arkansas native Qui Nguyen (2014 Sundance Institute Fellow).

The Dingdong: Or, How the French Kiss

by Georges Feydeau, adapted by Mark Shanahan. Directed by Morgan Hicks.

Vatelin is a faithful husband – mostly. Lucy is a faithful wife – kind of. But their “fidelity” is about to be put to the test when a series of importunate suitors and femmes fatales invade their cozy little world. Dive headfirst into the misadventures of one madcap night in a Parisian hotel in this new adaptation of Feydeau’s classic farce, and discover how opening the wrong door in the dark of night can lead to mayhem, laughter, and a few unlikely revelations about the secret to a happy marriage.


by Robert Ford, directed by Amy Herzberg

In the aftermath of a severe quake along the New Madrid Fault, Gabriel Baptiste, star safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers, defies a government quarantine and returns alone to his family farm in the Arkansas River Valley. Discovered by a scientist with secrets of her own, he’s drawn into a dangerous game of mutual recrimination. This new work by T2 Artistic Director Robert Ford will receive its world premiere production in TheatreSquared’s 2015/16 season.


by Lee Blessing; directed by Shana Gold

From Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award nominee Lee Blessing (A Walk in the Woods), comes a comedy about an academic sabbatical gone terribly awry. Dr. Paul Waymiller is facing a “publish or perish” deadline on his book about Chekov’s masterpiece, Uncle Vanya. With his career in the balance, he refuses to be distracted by anything—be it his imminent divorce, Vanya himself, or the interdimensional wormhole that’s opened up in his backyard.

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