It’s time once again to develop a handful of brand new plays for the stage in Fayetteville.
Of course, we’re talking about the annual Arkansas New Play Festival, kicking off today and running through June 25 in and around Fayetteville.
the showcase is in its 15th year this year, and over that time has helped to incubate more than 75 new plays.
From the description of the event:
The playwright-focused festival links authors with a director, dramaturg, and professional cast for an intensive laboratory process, culminating in staged reading performances. Through the Festival, TheatreSquared seeks to give voice to playwrights whose timely and relevant stories resonate with the moment we live in—in Arkansas, in mid-America, and as a nation.
This year’s festival will include staged readings by a host of new shows, including Saturday Mourning Cartoons by Iraisa Ann Reilly; Nancy by Rhiana Yazzie; I Am Delivered’t by Jonathan Norton; The Grove of Forgetting by Robert Ford; and Raices|Roots by LatinX Theatre Project.
In addition to these plays, the event will also include readings associated with the 2023 Arkansas Young Playwrights Showcase and the ANPF Apprentice Company performance of Rust by Basil Parnell.
Performances will be held in Bentonville at the Momentary (507 SE E St., Bentonville), in Springdale at the Medium (214 S. Main St., Springdale), and in Fayetteville at TheatreSquared (477 W. Spring St., Fayetteville).
New Play Passes to all Northwest Arkansas performances, are on sale now for $50. Passes may be reserved by calling (479) 777-7477 or visiting arkansasnewplayfest.com.
Play descriptions provided by TheatredSquared
Saturday Mourning Cartoons by Iraisa Ann Reilly
Jessica and Benny, two millennial, Latino siblings, have a falling out over whether to put their abuela, Yolanda, in a nursing home. Ultimately, Benny wins the argument, and Yolanda is sent to “el home.” When they are no longer able to go inside during visiting hours, the family is forced to confront one another while visiting her at the window. Yolanda will never find herself alone, as she is constantly in the care and presence of a special visitor. Saturday Mourning Cartoons is a play about dealing with change when everything changes at once, and mourning alone in a time of collective mourning.
“It is a play about dealing with change when everything changes at once, which everyone can relate to,” notes Singleton. “It will be exciting to introduce Reilly’s work to a wider audience at ANPF.”
Nancy by Rhiana Yazzie, directed by Ken-Matt Martin
It’s 1985 in Washington, DC, and two women are trying to steer their futures—Nancy Reagan from the White House, orchestrating her husband “Ronnie’s” political career according to daily astrological trends, and Esmeralda, a Navajo mother advocating for her community. Their worlds converge over an unbelievable discovery—Nancy has a direct familial connection to Pocahontas. Strange history collides with 80s nostalgia in this epic story that cuts through the veneer of shoulder pads, neon, and Van Halen with irreverent heart and deep empathy.
“We are so grateful to have Rhiana’s new play as part of this festival, as her work has been seen for years at major theatres across the country,” says Singleton.
I Am Delivered’t by Jonathan Norton
Good Friday. The New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church’s Seven Last Words service is in full swing. But outside—on the church parking lot—another resurrection story is taking shape. Sis, the Vice President of Usher Board Number One, and her protégé Pickles find themselves in a battle royale of romantic quagmires. This joyful new comedy introduces theater audiences to the world of Church Usher Board culture and celebrates same-gender-loving church folk and the power and joy of being your authentic self. These are the announcements. Let us govern ourselves accordingly.
“Of course we’ve seen plays set in church, but this one is amongst the usher board which has a set of rules and theatricality all its own within the church,” says Singleton. “Jonathan is a writer on the rise who creates wonderfully rich characters that tie deeply to family, legacy and honoring those who have paved the way.”
The Grove of Forgetting by Robert Ford, directed by Damon Kiely
Summer, 1938. Ilona, a famed concert pianist, refuses to be ruled by fear even as fellow Jewish artists and academics flee Hungary. Budapest is a haven from the growing Nazi fervor—isn’t it? Filled with intrigue, music, and wry humor, The Grove of Forgetting is a taut emotional thriller, as one woman caught in one of history’s darkest moments fights to find her way forward.
“This is a gorgeous new drama that combines Bob’s love of history, music and a good thriller,” says Singleton.
Raices|Roots by LatinX Theatre Project
The newest devised work by Northwest Arkansas’s trailblazing LatinX Theatre Project (LXTP). LXTP is a socially engaged theatre group of professionals and young artists-in-training that is committed to continuing an inclusive conversation about community identity through its devised theatre performances. The content of LXTP’s work not only includes original dialogue, movement, music, poetry, and rap; but also brings a focus to the authentic representation of Latinx voices in the arts and community.
TheatreSquared is also proud to support young playwrights through two additional events. First, the thirteenth annual Arkansas Young Playwright’s Showcase will feature a free performance at TheatreSquared June 25 at 12 pm. Students from across the state have submitted one-act scripts, and the top submission will be selected for mentorship from a professional playwright and a public reading at the Arkansas New Play Festival. Finally, our ANPF Apprentice Company will present Rust by Basil Parnell at 6 pm on June 22 at TheatreSquared, free to the public.
One of the most exciting parts of the festival, says Singleton, is the possibility that you’re going to see the next big thing in New York—right here in Northwest Arkansas. “This is a diverse lineup of powerful, new, thought-provoking plays by a mix of established, well-known writers as well as emerging writers and those newer to the field,” Singleton notes. “You can always say that you saw it at ANPF first. We’re one of the few new play festivals in the region and the only major one in the state of Arkansas. These talented writers are developing work at ANPF, right here in Fayetteville, that will premiere across the country in major theatres for years to come.”
Arkansas New Play Festival Schedule – 2023
June 20 at The Momentary
6pm. I Am Delivered’t, by Jonathan Norton
June 22 at TheatreSquared
7pm. Rust, by Basil Parnell (Apprentice Showcase)
June 23 at TheatreSquared
6pm. Raices | Roots, by the LatinX Theatre Project
June 24 at TheatreSquared
2:30pm. I Am Deliverd’t, by Jonathan Norton
8pm. The Grove of Forgetting, by Robert Ford
June 25 at TheatreSquared
12pm. Young Playwrights Showcase
2pm. Saturday Mourning Cartoons, by Iraisa Ann Reilly
5pm. Nancy, by Rhiana Yazzie