Sunday, March 04, 2001

Humana's silver anniversary lineup

Popular writers offer new works

By Judith Egerton
Louisville Courier-Journal

        Sundance and Cannes have their world-famous film festivals, but Louisville owns the bragging rights for an international theater event, the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre.

        For the 25th consecutive year, Actors Theatre will present a packed schedule of new plays that began Tuesday with a preview of Quake, about a woman who searches the world for true love.

  • What: Humana Festival of New American Plays, 25th anniversary.
  • When: Through April 7. The festival includes a rotating schedule of six new full-length plays, a comic collaboration of 16 playwrights, a bill of three 10-minute plays and seven dialogues that may be heard free on telephones in the theater lobby.
  • Where: Actors Theatre of Louisville, 316 W. Main St., downtown Louisville.
  • Tickets: Prices vary per play. Call the box office at (502) 584-1205, (800) 428-5849 or visit
        Every festival has its strengths and weaknesses — it's the nature of the beast when new works are staged. Yet, it would be a surprise if this silver anniversary festival with a slate of proven playwrights, including Jane Martin, Charles Mee and Richard Dresser, doesn't further garnish ATL's reputation as a place where exciting new voices are introduced, talented writers are nurtured and plays with Pulitzer Prize potential are produced.

        Here's a guide to this year's offerings, along with words of advice — don't wait too long to reserve a seat. Tickets to plays by Ms. Martin and Mr. Mee (who wrote last year's scathingly funny hit Big Love) will be snapped up quickly.

        • Quake by Melanie Marnich (through April 1) — In her search for a soul mate, Lucy crosses oceans and mountains and meets an astrophysicist-turned-serial killer. This is former Cincinnatian Ms. Marnich's festival debut. (See review on this page.)

        • When the Sea Drowns in the Sand by Eduardo Machado (through March 31) — The playwright's visit to his native Cuba for a Latin American film festival inspired him to write this story about an exiled Cuban who returns home to reconcile with his family after living in the United States for 40 years. Mr. Machado, the author of more than 25 plays, also wrote In the Eye of the Hurricane, a festival entry 10 years ago.

        • Flaming Guns of the Purple Sage by Jane Martin (through March 31) — The prolific, pseudonymous Ms. Martin returns with a bawdy comedy that reincarnates Big Eight, a rodeo-riding character from Ms. Martin's 1982 monologues Talking With. When Big Eight meets a gal with pink hair named Shedevil and her crazy biker boyfriend, the manure hits the fan on a Wyoming ranch.

        • Description Beggared; or the Allegory of Whiteness by Mac Wellman (March 11-April 1) — Experimental playwright, poet and novelist Mr. Wellman imagines a world where everyone and everything is white when a Rhode Island family gathers for a family portrait. Noted for his playful and complicated use of language, Mr. Wellman's honors include a Guggenheim fellowship and Obie Awards in 1990 and 1991.

        • Wonderful World by Richard Dresser (March 16-April 7) — The playwright, a Humana Festival regular who contributed Gun-Shy and The Car Play in recent years, has written a comedy that explores the wisdom (or is it stupidity?) of telling the unvarnished truth. In this play, two brothers grapple with their relationship with each other, their wives and their mother.

        • bobrauschenbergamerica by Charles L. Mee (March 22-April 1) — The off-the-wall work of conceptual artist Bob Rauschenberg comes to life in this collaboration of Mr. Mee and director Anne Bogart with the SITI Company. Together, they attempt to create a theatrical collage as if conceived by the painter himself.

        • Heaven and Hell (on Earth): A Divine Comedy (March 24-April 1) — What is heaven? Is there a hell? About two dozen young actors will perform this anthology, which delves into those questions. The 16 playwrights who contributed are Robert Alexander, Elizabeth Dewberry, Rebecca Gilman, Hilly Hicks, Michael Kassin, William Mastrosimone, Sarah Schulman, Alice Tuan, Jenny Lyn Bader, Deborah Frockt, Keith Glover, Karen Hines, Jane Martin, Guillermo Reyes, Richard Strand and Elizabeth Wong.

        This production is free, but reservations are required. Word of warning: Last year's anthology sold out quickly.

        • Chad Curtiss, Lost Again by Arthur Kopit (March 30-April 1) — The author of Y2K created this continuing saga as a series of three 10-minute plays about a hero with a poor sense of direction who embarks on a search for truth and beauty.

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