Jamie Ann Romero and Quincy Dunn-Baker read “The Legend of Georgia McBride” at the 2013 Colorado New Play Summit. Photo by Kyle Malone.
By John Moore
The Denver Center Theatre Company’s 9th annual Colorado New Play Summit will include a reading based on the novel Benediction, completing author Kent Haruf’s trilogy of rural Colorado tales, all adapted for the stage by Eric Schmiedl.
The Colorado New Play Summit previously introduced Haruf’s “Plainsong” in 2007 and “Eventide” in 2009, both of which went on to full productions on Denver Center mainstage seasons.
"Eventide," the second of Kent Haruf’s novels to be adapted to the stage by the Denver Center, was fully staged in 2010. Photo by Terry Shapiro.
Also on the 2014 Summit lineup for the weekend of Feb. 7-9 are Victory Jones and The Incredible One Woman Band by Idris Goodwin; Appoggiatura, by three-time Pulitzer Prize nominee James Still; and The Comparables by Laura Schellhardt. A fifth title will be announced at a later date.
The Colorado New Play Summit is the brainchild of Denver Center Theatre Company Artistic Director Kent Thompson and Associate Artistic Director., Bruce K. Sevy. Their festival draws artistic directors, literary managers, dramaturgs, directors, members of the media and the curious public to view the latest works by some of America’s most exciting playwrights. For savvy subscribers, the Summit is often a preview of the following year’s mainstage season. The current season, for example, includes mainstage productions of four plays that were introduced as readings at the last Summit in February: “Just Like Us,” by Karen Zacarías; “The Most Deserving,” by Catherine Trieschmann; “black odyssey,” by Marcus Gardley; and “The Legend of Georgia McBride,” by Matthew Lopez.
The Denver Center’s new-play tradition goes back to its beginnings, with credits ranging from “Quilters” to “The Laramie Project.” By season’s end, the Denver Center Theatre Company will have launched 129 world premieres in its 35-year history.
Since Thompson arrived in 2005, he has nurtured some of America’s most celebrated and promising playwrights through his new-play development program, including Lee Blessing, Steven Dietz, Richard Dresser, Laura Eason, Jason Grote, Samuel D. Hunter, Lisa Loomer, Michele Lowe, Michael Mitnick, Julie Marie Myatt, Theresa Rebeck, Octavio Solis, Caridad Svich, Catherine Trieschmann, Ken Weitzman and Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder. Those are just some of the playwrights who have been commissioned, premiered or otherwise developed at the Denver Center under Thompson.
What sets the Denver Center apart from other new-play programs is its ongoing commitment to developing new plays from readings through full-scale season productions. More than 40 new plays have now been introduced in readings at the Colorado New Play Summit. By the end of the current season, the Denver Center will have fully premiered 21 new American plays since 2005.
Many of those productions have gone on to significant continued life in the American theatre, including Grote’s “1001,” a deconstruction of the tales of the Arabian Nights that has had 22 stagings since 2007, including Page 73 Productions in New York and the Contemporary American Theater Festival in West Virginia). Grote has written for “Mad Men” and “Hannibal.” Solis’ “Lydia,” about an unusual maid charged with caring for a Mexican-American teenage girl severely injured in a car accident, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Hunter’s “The Whale,” about a morbidly obese man’s attempt to re-connect with his daughter, has since last year been staged by Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago, and at South Coast Repertory in California. Haruf’s “Plainsong” will make its Chicago premiere from Jan. 30-March 8 at the Signal Theatre Company.
In addition to five staged readings, Visitors to the 2014 Summit also will see mainstage productions of two plays from February’s Summit: The Legend of Georgia McBride and the lower-cased black odyssey.
The 2014 Colorado New Play Summit will take place Feb. 7-9 at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Summit passes, which include seating at all readings, admission to the two world premieres, plus meals, receptions, and discounts to nearby downtown Denver hotels, are now available. Tickets to individual readings will be available in early January. For more information and Summit registration, go to www.denvercenter.org/summit, or call 303-893-6030.
Director Chay Yew during rehearsal with the cast of “black odyssey” during the 2013 Colorado New Play Summit.” Photo by Kyle Malone.
The 2014 Colorado New Play Summit plays at a glance:
By James Still
Followed by a violin-playing Vivaldi, a charming but bogus Italian tour guide accompanies a widow and a bereaved middle-aged man who both mourn the same person while her granddaughter questions her future. Appoggiatura is a sun-drenched romance about love, loss, and a broken family re-living the past and healing its heart in Venice. Playwright James Still is a three-time nominee for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. A Denver Center Commission.
VICTORY JONES AND THE INCREDIBLE ONE-WOMAN BAND
By Idris Goodwin
A brightly talented girl aims for a place center stage in the world of music. Using live and recorded “looping” technology, the world of break beat music sets the background for an African American girl’s hip hop odyssey along the bumpy road to music stardom. Smart, sassy, humorous, heartfelt and rousing with a cast of colorful, contemporary characters, Victory Jones is an ear-to-the-streets portrait of American pop culture experienced by one gifted girl. Goodwin’s previous break beat play, How We Got On, was read two seasons ago at The Humana Festival and was produced in Chicago at Company One. Victory Jones and The Incredible One Woman Band is a Denver Center commission.
By Eric Schmiedl
Based on the novel by Kent Haruf
Set on the high plains of eastern Colorado, Benediction follows the lives of three souls yearning for communion—a dying elderly man, a young orphaned girl and a renegade preacher. As with Haruf’s novels Plainsong and Eventide, the Denver Center has once again brought playwright Eric Schmiedl on board to adapt this penetrating, deeply human story for the stage. A Denver Center commission.
By Laura Schellhardt
In this dark comedy, Iris and Monica jockey for power in Bette’s “Boutique” –a high-end real estate agency run and staffed almost solely by women. In a world of double standards, what happens when the gender tables are turned? Does the glass ceiling still pertain? And who’s going to make the coffee? The Comparables is a hilarious look at climbing the corporate ladder in three-inch heels.
World Premiere: Mainstage production
THE LEGEND OF GEORGIA MCBRIDE
by Matthew Lopez
Directed by Mike Donahue
A heartwarming, music-filled comedy about Casey, an Elvis impersonator who just learned his dive bar act is being replaced with a drag show. With the bills stacking up and a kid on the way, Casey’s going to have to adapt to a whole new show business like none he’s ever known in this risqué romp. The Legend of Georgia McBride was workshopped at the 2013 Colorado New Play Summit.
World Premiere: Mainstage production
by Marcus Gardley
Directed by Chay Yew
The Greek gods meet African-American culture in this twist on Homer’s The Odyssey. Centered on a black soldier returning home from a harrowing tour in the War in Afghanistan, this compelling new play fuses modern reality, humor, and song with ancient myth. black odyssey was workshopped at the 2013 Colorado New Play Summit. A Denver Center commission.