Humana Festival 2004: The Complete Playsby Tanya Palmer
Critics, theatre practitioners and lovers of theatre often struggle to describe the experience of delving into the world of a new play. Dramaturg and teacher Elinor Fuchs evocatively describes the experience of leading a play as taking a "visit to a small planet." Sometimes that planet seems familiar: its rules, assumptions, values-its topography-all closely… See more details below
Critics, theatre practitioners and lovers of theatre often struggle to describe the experience of delving into the world of a new play. Dramaturg and teacher Elinor Fuchs evocatively describes the experience of leading a play as taking a "visit to a small planet." Sometimes that planet seems familiar: its rules, assumptions, values-its topography-all closely resemble our own. Other times that world is wildly unfamiliar: landing there feels akin to arriving in a country where one doesn't speak the language or understand the culture, and even those rules we assume we'll share-the laws of gravity, the forward movement of time-cannot to be taken for granted. The sheer inventiveness required to craft a play is stunning. Playwrights create not only a compelling narrative and engaging characters, but a distinct universe for them to inhabit. That spirit of inventiveness was evident in abundance at the 2004 Humana Festival of New American Plays. In Sans-culottes in the Promised Land, Kirsten Greenidge's lush, lyrical and surprising new play about an upper-middle class Black family, metaphor supplants the laws of nature, causing a forest to grow through the floorboards of their McMansion. Naomi Iizuka's At the Vanishing Point is a stunning portrait of a Louisville community developed through interviews and research and performed site-specifically in the neighborhood that inspired its creation. The play ruptures the boundary between the living and the dead, reminding us of the continued presence of the past in our lives and our landscape.
Playwright Melanie Marnich redefines a world first created in the seventeenth century by Jacobean dramatists Thomas Middleton and Walter Raleigh. In Tallgrass Gothic, the decidedly dark story of The Changeling is transported to the contemporary Midwest, with similarly shocking and bloody results. Gina Gionfriddo's biting satire.
After Ashley pits her young hero and his dedication to the hard truth against a society increasingly seduced by media spin. And in two plays, Kid-Simple by Jordan Harrison and The Ruby Sunrise by Rinne Groff, invention itself takes centre stage, introducing us to two fiery and determined young inventresses whose vision for a changed world transforms their own lives in the process.
As playwrights push to match the stories they tell to the form of the world that contains them, so Actors Theatre has a tradition of challenging playwrights to respond to new structures. This year's festival featured the ethical round robin Fast and Loose, in which four writers responded to four ethical questions and each wrote part of the resultant four storylines. The ten-minute plays-developed by Actors Theatre and now a standard feature of the Humana Festival-featured sharp and distinct takes on the form: A Bone Close to My Brain, Dan Dietz's meditation on brotherly love and responsibility; Stephen Dietz's abrasive media satire The Spot; Kuwait, Vincent Delaney's interrogation of journalistic freedom and accountability under the fire of the first Iraqi war and Craig Wright's Foul Territory, which finds in the absurd curve of foul balls two drastically different views of fate and human will.
This spirit of inventiveness-of pioneering impulses, grand dreams and wild
ambitions-is an ideal subject for the Humana Festival, an event built on grand
ideas. Since 1979, when Jon Jory first conceived the idea of creating a home for
American playwrights in Louisville, Actors Theatre has had the joy and privilege
of working with an ever-increasing cadre of talented, passionate playwrights. We
hope we have succeeded in doing justice to these worlds, created in private by
playwrights, brought briefly to life through the generous support of the Humana
Foundation and the energy and commitment of the countless artists who work
tirelessly each spring, and offered here to you, as a blueprint to these
luminous and distinct small planets.
� Tanya Palmer and Adrien-Alice Hansel
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