A Question of Words by Richard Manley
After two decades of success as a copywriter and an advertising executive, Richard Manley started a second career writing stage plays, which he has been doing full time for the past six years. Pulling from many years’ worth of personal journals, he rediscovered his passion for the sound of the language and its potential to entertain and provoke. When he returned to the States from a sabbatical in Paris seven years ago, he sold his business and structured a lifestyle that would allow him to write stage plays full time. Prior to A Question of Words, his most recent full-length play, The Truth Quotient, had a four-week, full production run this spring at the Beckett Theatre (NY). The previous fall it won ANPF 2012 (under the title This Rough Magic) and the John Gassner Memorial Playwriting Award given by the New England Theater Conference. It was the only American play among the three finalists for the international STAGE Award–best new play about science and technology. His previous play, Life Is Mostly Straws, won the Pillars Prize and the Todd McNerney National Playwriting Award. It was also one of 10 finalists for the prestigious Woodward/Newman Award and was chosen by the Actors Temple in London for a rehearsed reading. Quietus, another full-length play, was selected by ANPF for a fundraiser in spring 2013. It was also one of 10 plays from around the world chosen by the International Theatrical Arts Institute for a funded development program, followed by a public reading. As well, it was picked by the Actors Studio (NY) for a rehearsed reading in front of its members. As a consequence, Manley was invited to become an honorary member. Additional prizes for other plays include the W. Keith Hedrick Award (NY), the Brevard New Play Competition (NC), the Oglebay Institute’s Towngate Prize (WV), and The Theater Resources Unlimited (TRU-NY) funded Play Reading Series. In addition, his one-act plays have been produced by the Gallery Players (NY), the Sun Dog Theatre (NY), the Stonington Players (CT), Willits Shakespeare Festival (CA), and Theatricum Botanicum (CA). www.richardmanleyplaywright.com | Read an exclusive interview with Richard Manley about the world premiere of A Question of Words | Watch a video of the talkback
In A Question of Words, ending years of self-exile following the death of his wife, poet Derby Wright quietly accepts a house-sitting invitation for a Manhattan co-op. Wanting to inconspicuously slip back into society at his own pace, Derby is repeatedly thwarted by an inquisitive female neighbor, her pushy mother, snobby members of the co-op board, and a lawyer determined to have him thrown out for his murky past. His hopes for privacy fail miserably, but one romantic exception forces the overly intellectual Derby to recognize that when it comes to understanding happiness, real life is very much a question of words.
Directed by Kenneth Albers. Cast: Catherine Lynn Davis, Brandy Carson, David Wood, Geoffrey Riley, Nell Geisslinger, Douglas Rowe, and Kenneth Albers
The Boatwright by Bo Wilson
Bo Wilson makes his home in Richmond, Virginia, where he works as a professional dramatist. The author of more than 40 plays, he has won a variety of national awards and fellowships from theatre companies, universities, and festivals all over the country. His plays have been produced by League of Resident Theatres (LORT) houses, Small Professional Theatres, community theaters, murder-mystery dinner theaters, children’s theaters, and most every other sort of theater. He has been published by Samuel French and by Algonquin Press. Wilson is also regularly commissioned by science and fine arts museums to create site-specific performance pieces on subjects ranging from Patrick Henry to black holes (his personal favorite is an Abbott and Costello–style piece in which Bud tries to explain the number pi to Lou). He has also written several dozen award-winning training films for private industry and the US government, including Dupont, the Department of Veteran Affairs, the US Navy, the FBI, and the Defense Intelligence Agency. Before working full time as a professional writer, Wilson began as a literary manager/dramaturg for TheatreVirginia; he also worked for years as a LORT stage manager for more than 60 productions. In addition to writing, he enjoys directing from time to time. He won a Best Director award for his production of Shining City, and his production of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot was named Best Dramatic Production in Richmond for 2011. He is also a professional voice talent, with several hundred national, regional, and local radio and television commercials to his credit. A graduate of Virginia Tech and the National Theatre Institute, Wilson is a member of Actors’ Equity Association and the Dramatists Guild. He is also a member of the Happily Married Father of Two Club (lifetime membership). www.bowilson.net
In The Boatwright Ben Calloway can’t seem to get his bearings in his own home anymore. Fifty-seven years old, recently widowed, childless, and retired, he’s adrift. And even though he’s never seen the ocean, he decides to build a boat and sail across the Atlantic. He doesn’t particularly want any part of his young neighbor Jaime’s problems: he’s been suspended from film school, and his father’s out of patience with him. But when Ben allows Jaime to make a movie about his boat-building project, the two men—generations apart and lonely in very different ways—force one another to confront the isolation in their own lives.
Directed by Catherine Lynn Davis. Cast: Kenneth Albers, Noah Yaconelli, and Catherine Lynn Davis
Other Than Honorable by Jamie Pachino
Jamie Pachino is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter, and television writer. Her plays have been produced in four countries, commissioned, published, and honored; and her teleplays and television series work has appeared on USA, TNT, Lifetime, and the Hallmark Hall of Fame. As a playwright, Pachino’s work has won the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays production grant, the Laurie Foundation Theatre Visionary Award, Chicago’s Joseph Jefferson (“Jeff”) Award for Best New Work, the Pinter Prize Gold Medal for Drama, and the Francesca Primus Prize by the American Theatre Critics Association, among many others. Her plays have been nominated for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and the Illinois Governor’s Award and named runner-up for the Osborn Award (American Theater Critics Association) and the Jane Chambers Award. Her plays have been produced and developed by such theatres as Steppenwolf, Long Wharf, Hartford Stage, American Conservatory Theatre, San Jose Rep, Pasadena Playhouse, Geva, Northlight, Florida Stage, A Contemporary Theatre, and the Women’s Playwright Conference in Athens, Greece. She has served on the faculty of the University of California at Irvine, Northwestern University (her alma mater), Columbia College, National Louis University, and the Chicago Academy for the Arts in Chicago. As a screenwriter she has written features for DreamWorks, Disney, Vanguard Films, Walden Media, and Smith/Hemion. Other film scripts have been optioned by Greenestreet, Hearst, Trigger Street Films, and Lions Gate. She currently writes for the TV series Franklin & Bash on TNT. Previous series work includes Fairly Legal on USA Network and freelance work for Rizzoli & Isles (TNT). She has also written teleplays for Lifetime Television and the Hallmark Hall of Fame, including one that gathered Emmy and SAG nominations for Gena Rowlands. Jamie is a proud member of the WGA and the International Center for Women Playwrights and is represented by Abrams Artists Agency and Evolution Entertainment. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, composer Lindsay Jones, and their two amazing children. www.jamiepachino.com
Other Than Honorable is the story of Grace Rattigan, a former military officer who resigned her commission under sealed terms and now works in a high-profile DC law firm. A new client arrives at her office—AWOL after stabbing her commanding officer—reopening Grace’s old wounds. As Grace pursues the client’s case, the layers of her own experience with the same CO (about to be promoted to a post he should never have) leaves Grace at a crossroads. She can come forward and tell the truth about her past, or stay AWOL from that part of her life. Touching on hot-button issues in the news right now, this is the story of one woman confronting the real meaning of the military’s codes of honor, courage, and loyalty.
Directed by Kimberly Scott. Cast: Sabina Zuniga Varela, Vilma Silva, Bakesta King, Al Espinosa, Brad Whitmore, Kimberly Scott, Mauro Hantman, and Katie Medford
Sleeping Dogs by Robert John Ford
Robert John Ford is an Iowa-based award-winning playwright, composer, and lyricist whose musicals and plays have been produced throughout the country. Musicals for which he wrote the book, music, and lyrics include: Caucus! The Musical (“the hottest new musical in the country” —Washington Post); Six-on-Six: The Musical (“a slam dunk” —Des Moines Register); Utopia (“you will laugh…hard!” —Des Moines Register); and The World’s Largest Aluminum Foil Ball (“must see” designation —St. Paul Pioneer Press). Musicals for which he wrote the book and lyrics include: The Illusionist; Trice; Clean Up; and Rolf! (all currently in development in collaboration with various composers). He also wrote the book for the musical Forever in Blue Jeans—A Diamond in the Rough. His plays include: Sleeping Dogs; The Casserole Brigade; Wake; My Dinner with Andrew (“must-see” designation —St. Paul Pioneer Press); and Happenstance. His work has been featured nationally in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Time magazine, and US News & World Report and on CNN, CBS, ABC, BBC, and National Public Radio, among others. For 15 years he worked in the business and artistic departments at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, serving as the casting director and literary department manager for four of those years. He is currently a lyricist in the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop in New York City and maintains his own theatre production company—Right Brain Productions—in his home state of Iowa. Please “Like” his page on Facebook and follow him on Twitter at @RobertJohnFord (although he has yet to Tweet anything!). www.robertjohnford.com
In Sleeping Dogs two mothers are trying to uncover the facts surrounding a car accident that has left one woman’s son dead and the other woman’s son comatose. Their investigation, which leads to surprising and disturbing revelations about the circumstances leading up to and immediately after the accident, ultimately forces the mothers to re-examine the identities of both themselves and the sons they thought they knew so well. Loosely based on a true story, the play examines the complex and very personal reasons why some people are content to accept matters as they appear to be while others are compelled to seek the truth at any cost.
Directed by Robynn Rodriguez. Cast: Robynn Rodriguez, Miriam A. Laube, Joe Wegner, and Robert Vincent Frank
Host Playwright EM Lewis
EM Lewis, an ANPF 2008 winner with her play Song of Extinction, returned to Ashland as our ANPF 2013 host playwright. She welcomed this year’s winners, moderated the talkbacks, and led a 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 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 and has subsequently been produced at Ion Theater in San Diego, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, the Guthrie in Minneapolis (by Theater Latte Da), and at Hostos College in the Bronx in 2012, where it was book-of-the-semester. Lewis also wrote the Iraq War hostage drama Heads (winner of the 2008 Primus Prize for an emerging woman theater artist as well as Best of 2007 from the Los Angeles Times), which has been produced in Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, and at Missouri Valley College and is upcoming at the REP in Pittsburgh in January 2014. Infinite Black Suitcase was produced by Moving Arts and by TheSpyAnts in Los Angeles and published by Samuel French. Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday premiered at HotCity Theater in St. Louis in 2012, and her commissioned history play Talking to Westfield was done at Premiere Stages in New Jersey. Lewis is a member of Page 73′s Interstate 73 playwriting workshop in New York, Playwrights Theater of New Jersey’s Emerging Women Playwrights Project, the Passage Theater playwriting workshop, Moving Arts Theater Company, and the Dramatists Guild. She grew up on a small farm in Oregon, then lived in Los Angeles for quite a while. Fellowships from Princeton University and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts allowed her to move to the Garden State, where she wrote full-time for three years. Recently she has returned to the farm in Oregon and couldn’t be happier to be home. Current projects include an epic Antarctic adventure story called Magellanica: A New and Accurate Map of the World; an intimate two-person play set in Oregon called The Stone Languages; and The Gun Show, which is about guns and gun control. Reading to Vegetables (about medical ethics) premieres at University of Washington in Seattle in spring 2014. Her newest play, True Story—a mystery, of sorts—was workshopped at the Arkansas New Play Festival in June 2013 and will have its world premiere in November at Passage Theater in New Jersey. www.emlewisplaywright.com
Lewis moderated the talkbacks after all the readings and led the playwriting workshop.