Couples by Gary Dontzig
Gary Dontzig wrote and produced such television shows as Murphy Brown, Suddenly Susan, Becker, and State of Grace and in the process won three Emmy Awards as well as the Humanitas, Alma, Prism, and a few others he can’t quite remember. Prior to his work behind the camera, he was a modestly successful actor, working in many major US regional theaters, including Arena Stage, Hartford Stage, the Mark Taper Forum, the Old Globe, and Seattle Rep, to name a few; he also appeared on TV in sitcoms and in a number of pilots that went nowhere. He did this for more years than he cares to remember. He now resides in hills of Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he wakes every morning to a spectacular view of the Sangre de Christo Mountains. After an appalling cup of Chinese medicinal tea, he hikes his dog, Max; has a soy protein drink; and spends at least part of his day writing plays. He’s a proud vegetarian/vegan of 36 years; this is amazing since he tells people he’s only 34 years old. He does consider the number of animals still living because of his diet to be one of his major accomplishments.
Couples explores the question What happens to a couple over the 30 years of a relationship? The nervousness of the first meeting, the excitement of the attraction, the warning signs, the inability to resist, the fear of the commitment, the leap into the void, and then, 30 years later, who they have become—as a couple and as individuals. Told through a series of vignettes, Couples is a dramedy about three entirely separate relationships, their love for each other, their resentments, their anger, their needs, their wants, their ability to negotiate the difficult terrain of a partnership, and their willingness to compromise . . . or not.
Directed by Caroline Shaffer, the cast comprised Cristofer Jean, Michael Elich, Gina Daniels, Caroline Shaffer, Ted Deasy, Benajah Cobb, Kimberly Scott, Caroline Shaffer, and Dayvin Turchiano. Performance were Thursday, October 20, at 2 p.m. and Saturday, October 22, at 8 p.m.
Fernando by Steven Haworth
Steven Haworth wrote [home] or The Quest for the Lost Tablet of Ur for Zoo District and adapted Mikail Bulgakov’s Flight for the Open Fist Theatre, both in Los Angeles. In New York his Little Fishes was produced at Abingdon Theater, Dark Age was staged at Project 3 Ensemble Theatre, as well as The White Cave. In Pittsburgh Two Tribes was featured at the Carnegie Mellon Showcase of New Plays. In New Zealand he was one of four playwrights contributing to the Big Kahuna project directed by Christine Sang. Haworth was associate artistic director of the Project 3 Ensemble Theatre in residence at the Ohio Theatre in Soho, New York. He has an MFA in playwriting from Carnegie Mellon University.
In Fernando, Zachariah Smythe, assistant professor of art, has come to Madrid to study a painting by Fernando De La Cruz. Zach considers the enormous painting a masterpiece and the painter one of the greatest Spanish artists of the past 100 years. He is entirely alone in this belief. Still, Zach is willing to bet everything on an article about this painting. Unfortunately, he has run out of professional chances, his time in Madrid is limited, and his sobriety is tenuous. Enter Teresa, an astonishingly brilliant and beautiful Spanish woman full of secrets and rage.
Directed by John Stadelman, the cast comprised Rex Young, Miriam A. Laube, Jim Garcia, Doug Rowe, and Holly Weber Neimark. Performances were Friday, October 21, at 2 p.m. and Sunday, October 23, at 2 p.m.
Spin, or Twilight of the Bohemians by Carol Verburg
Carol Verburg wrote her first prize-winning play at 16 and her second, a rock musical, in 1968. Alongside a career in academic and trade publishing, she helped found the Provincetown Playwrights’ Lab and headed Cape Cod theater companies in Provincetown, Bourne, and Cotuit. There she produced the late artist Edward Gorey’s many original “entertainments” and directed scripts ranging from Hamlet (with a Gorey set design) to the US debut of Peter Shaffer’s The Gift of the Gorgon. Carol’s own plays include The Whistling Pig (Cotuit; honorable mention, Jane Chambers Award), The Abduction (Bourne; Utah Shakespearean Festival), and Lady Day in Love (Bourne, Sandwich, San Francisco: Eureka Theatre staged reading starring Ledisi, 1999; production starring Kim Nalley, 2006). She currently lives mostly in San Francisco, works as a freelance writer and editor, and leads the Mechanics’ Institute Library’s indie publishing workshop. Recent books include Edward Gorey Plays Cape Cod and the mystery Croaked.
In Spin, or Twilight of the Bohemians, Jerome Hart’s unexpected death devastates Mimi Locke. What will she do? What will Jerome’s family do with his cats, belongings, and the home he and Mimi shared? She’s already fighting off Vince, a handyman sniffing for loot. When Jerome’s sister Catherine, her husband Anton, and their daughter Stella move in, Mimi feels as besieged as the ’60s lesbian warrior heroine Lavender Jones. Stella, who hates her parents and idolizes Lavender Jones, becomes a soft target for Vince. Meanwhile Anton’s making friends with ex-monk Ricardo Yount, who wants Jerome’s house for the new HQ of his Ethical Wealth Institute. As betrayals and losses pile up, both Stella and Mimi must rediscover their inner Lavender Jones.
Directed by Lenny Neimark, the cast comprised Douglas Rowe, David Kelly, Rodney Gardiner, Mark Barsekian, Brandy Carson, Terri McMahon, Ellie von Radics, and Holly Weber Neimark. Performances were Thursday, October 20, at 8 p.m. and Saturday, October 22, at 2 p.m.
Countdown to the Happy Day by Thomas W. Stephens
Playwright, director, actor, and educator Tom Stephens founded the Department of Theatre at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College (now Randolph College) in Lynchburg, Virginia. He has written dozens of plays that have been produced or developed at numerous venues, including the National Playwrights Conference of the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, Berkeley Stage Company, Source Theatre Company, Pittsburgh New Play Festival, the University of Virginia, the J. F. Kennedy Center’s Page to Stage Festival, Barter Theatre’s Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights, and DC’s Capital Fringe Festival. Tom is a member of the Dramatists Guild and Washington, DC’s Playwrights Forum. He is also a regular participant in Charles Maryan’s Playwrights and Directors Workshop in New York City.
Countdown to the Happy Day is a two-character drama that depicts, in vivid street language and with occasional grim humor and profanity, the chance involvement of Gertie, thirties and a self-inflicted street person, and Cervin, a hulking 15-year-old, both of whom are African American. From their first encounter on a nighttime city street, the two are chary of each other and emotionally combustible. Gertie, a troubled US Army vet, resists being drawn into the world of Cervin, a seventh-grade dropout. Their relationship nonetheless grows ever more overlaid, complex, and inevitable. In the play’s final moments, they together chant a “countdown” to a happy day they both so crave and for which they continue waiting.
Directed by Claudia Alick and Brian Demar Jones, the cast comprised Kimberly Scott, Christopher Livingston, and Brian Demar Jones. Performances were Wednesday, October 19, at 8 p.m. and Friday, October 21, at 8 p.m.
Host Playwright EM Lewis
EM Lewis, an ANPF 2008 winner with her play Song of Extinction, returned to Ashland as our ANPF 2011 host playwright. She welcomed this year’s winners, moderated the talkbacks, and led the playwriting workshop. Lewis won the 2009 Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award from the American Theater Critics Association for Song of Extinction, which premiered in Los Angeles, produced by Moving Arts at [Inside] the Ford. The play also won the University of Oregon’s EcoDrama Festival, the Ted Schmitt Award for the premiere of an outstanding new play from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, and Production of the Year from the LA Weekly Awards. It was published in Dramatics magazine and by Samuel French, leading to productions in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, at Ion Theater in San Diego, and at the Guthrie.
Lewis also wrote the Primus Prize–winning Iraq War hostage drama Heads and Infinite Black Suitcase, about a group of people dealing with tragedy in rural Oregon, which will be published by Samuel French this fall. Lewis is a member of Moving Arts Theater Company, the Dramatists Guild, the International Centre for Women Playwrights, and the Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights. She is originally from Oregon, lived in Los Angeles for quite a while, and is at Princeton University now—the recipient of a 2010–2011 Hodder Fellowship—working on a new play. She will be workshopping Magellanica: A New and Accurate Map of the World at the William Inge Center for the Arts immediately following ANPF. www.emlewisplaywright.com
Lewis moderated the talkbacks after all the readings and led the playwriting workshop.