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New Playwrights: The Best Plays of 2004

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781575254241
  • Publisher: Smith & Kraus, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/28/2005
  • Series: New Playwrights Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 411
  • Sales rank: 1,436,677
  • Product dimensions: 5.35 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword, D. L. Lepidus
Introduction, Rosary O'Neill

The Beard of Avon, Amy Freed
Bee-luther-hatchee, Thomas Gibbons
The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer, Carson Kreitzer
Living Out, Lisa Loomer
Intimate Apparel, Lynn Nottage
Book Group, Marisa Smith
The Story, Tracey Scott Wilson

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I'd like to salute the seven playwrights included in this 2004 Smith and Kraus New Playwrights book. I had been seeing my plays produced in New Orleans, New York, Paris, London, and elsewhere for twelve years and had been the founding artistic director of an equity company for fifteen years, when I got a call from my agent that Smith and Kraus was publishing my play, Degas in New Orleans in its Women Playwrights: The Best Plays of 2002 anthology. What a thrilling day that was. To have one of my eleven plays immortalized in print. To see Degas in New Orleans go from being a closet manuscript, xeroxed for friends, to one available to the world. Finally: legitimacy! When I taught on a Fulbright Award in Germany, my students would have access to my work and that of the other American playwrights. A handful of we lucky ones were IN PRINT.Even produced plays remain stillborn if not published. All plays have limited runs. Some great plays (e.g., Night of the Iguana) are greeted with bad reviews, which hit most unknown playwrights like the guillotine. I shudder to think how many great plays have been trashed before or after their author's deaths. Theater is the most temporary art. "An actor is an artist who carves in snow," Lord Byron said, and the impermanence of theater is magnified by the permanence of film. With the media seducing so many of our best writers, to remain in the precarious profession of playwright requires daring, determination, and brilliance. My father once compared my being a playwright during the age of film and television to my being like a candle maker when electricity came in, or a wagon maker when the car was introduced. "You like candles," he said, "but you use electricity." Apparently one of my ancestors, in the wagon and carriage business, when the automobile was invented went bankrupt because he couldn't believe wagons would become obsolete. Playwrights are something more than candle and wagon makers; they are the soul makers of the written word. They imagine the spirit of actors inside words, and the kinetic world embracing the actor. Across America, universities continue to award degrees in playwriting because stripped to the bone, the word and the actor root performance. And when a play can fly into the souls of audiences and transform them, a playwright functions like a magician, invisibly pulling the strings behind the performance.The playwright is the soul carrier of his or her time. While other writers can be discovered posthumously, the playwright must sing to a live audience. Tennessee Williams said he wrote his plays to make the world a kinder place, and there is not doubt great playwrights change the culture, by the issues they explore and present. These issues may make audiences uncomfortable but ultimately they pack a wallop and spectators come away uplifted, inspired, for "God" has entered the theater.Thank goodness for our playwrights. Please join me in celebrating their valor, tenacity, and the shimmering beauty of their words.
Rosary O'Neill, Ph.D.
New York City
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As you may have noticed, most of the shining faces on the cover of this book belong to women. I always make an effort in editing this series to find plays by women playwrights to include therein, to do my bit to counteract the heretofore grievous underrepresentation of work by women playwrights in our national dramatic repertory. In the 2003-2004 theatrical season, this effort was easy, because there were so many plays by women produced; and so many of them were so strong. I'm not the only one who's dubbed 2003-2004 the "Year of the Woman Playwright." Look at the 2004 Humana Festival. Five of the six full-length plays presented there were by - you guessed it - women.So, here we have seven terrific new plays. I just realized, after reading the above paragraph, that Thomas Gibbons might feel rather slighted, like he's the token male in this book. So, to compensate, let me start, in my brief words of description of these plays, with Bee-luther-hatchee, which I saw at the Blue Heron Arts Center in New York City in what I was told was its twenty-fifth production, the previous ones being amateur and professional productions around the country. It's about a high-powered, black, female, book editor who finds, to her chagrin, that her recent best seller, a memoir by a mysterious black female housekeeper, is actually written by a white male. Does this make the book a fraud? Or, a great work of the imagination?Race as an issue is also dealt with imaginatively in Lynn Nottage's Intimate Apparel, which focuses on a black seamstress for rich white people in early twentieth-century New York; with Lisa Loomer's Living Out, about an "illegal alien" nanny from South America, trying to please her harried employer as she tries to maintain some semblance of a home life; and Tracey Scott Wilson's The Story, which is about a female black reporter with a fabricated past who may also have fabricated a story about female black gang members. Although these plays had productions outside New York originally, I saw them in New York City, at the Roundabout (Intimate Apparel), Second Stage (Living Out) and the Public Theater (The Story).I also saw The Beard of Avon off Broadway in New York - at the New York Theatre Workshop. This play is an inventive, theatrically charged comedy about the "Shakespearean Authorship Controversy," which it comes at in a way you may not have ever considered. What if Shakespeare was a front for the Earl of Oxford, but gradually became "Shakespeare" over the course of time? I'll say no more. Read it - it's great.Also very theatrically-inventive: Carson Kreitzer's The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer, an award-winning play still unproduced in New York that deals with the controversial "Father of the Atom Bomb."Finally, I ventured far afield (for me) up to the wilds of northern New England, to see a summer stock production of a comedy by Marisa Smith. Since this was Ms. Smith's first play and its premier production, I was wary. To my surprise, delight, and relief, her play, Book Group, turned out to be a hilarious, well-constructed comedy.
- D. L. Lepidus
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