And Vaster by Skye Robinson Hillis
Skye Robinson Hillis is a playwright, director, and dramaturg in Chicago. As a playwright her work has been seen at the Route 66 Theatre Company, Chicago Dramatists, Piven Theatre Workshop, A Red Orchid Theatre, the Artistic Home Ensemble, Prologue Theatre Company, Polarity Ensemble Theatre, Columbia College, and the City of Chicago’s In the Works Play Lab at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. Her ANPF 2015 winning play And Vaster was awarded a residency at the New Works Lab at Stratford in summer 2015. The Runaway Gene was a semifinalist of the Polarity’s Dionysus Cup New Works Festival in 2013, and her play The Running Mate was a finalist in 2014. newplayexchange_skye-robinson-hillis
In And Vaster married actors Michael and Corinne, in their 15 years together, have stood by their decision to focus on their respective careers and each other and to not have children. When Michael is suddenly confronted with a heretofore unknown 17-year-old daughter begotten from a one-night stand, their years of meticulous planning are rendered useless; they must revisit the decision they made long ago and figure out how to assimilate a nearly grown-up child into their kid-free family dynamic, without losing each other in the process.
Directed by Lydia Garcia. Cast: Terri McMahon, David Kelly, Sara Bruner, Al Espinosa, Stephanie Neuerburg, and Kaitlin J. Henderson. Underwritten by Linda and Rick Young. Thursday, 10/22, 7:30 p.m. • Sunday, 10/25, 1:30 p.m
The Bottle Tree by Beth Kander
Beth Kander is a writer with one foot in the South and the other in the Midwest. Her plays have been staged throughout the United States and internationally. Published plays include Scrambled; See Jane Quit; Running Mates (Steele Spring Stage Rights); and Unshelved (Chicago Dramaworks). Her short plays have appeared in such anthologies as Stage This! Volume 3 and the upcoming Little Black Dress Ink collection. In 2015 her new play The Bottle Tree earned her a spot on The Kilroys Honorable Mention List. Kander’s recent playwriting residencies and honors include Leapfest 2015 (Stage Left Theatre, Chicago); The Writer’s Room 2015 (New Colony, Chicago); Downstage Left Residency, 2014–2015 (Stage Left Theatre); The Charles M. Getchell New Play Award 2012 (Southeastern Theatre Conference); Eudora Welty New Play Awards in 2008, 2010, and 2013 (New Stage Theatre, Jackson); Theatre Oxford Audience Award 2012 (Oxford, MS); Stage This! Audience Award 2009 (Fn Productions, New York); Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Arts Fellowship in Playwriting, 2009–2010; and Mississippi Theatre Association New Play Award (2009). She is a member of the Dramatists Guild. bethkander.com | facebook.com/ByBethKander
In The Bottle Tree, gun violence in America is explored through the story of a small-town girl with a big, bad family legacy. Years after a tragic shooting at East Maple High, all of Maple County, Mississippi, is still traumatized, perhaps no one more so than shy, sarcastic Alley, the little sister of the infamous shooter. With fragility, tenacity, and a sharp sense of humor, Alley is haunted by past ghosts and jolted into new worlds with few easy answers—and as she gradually realizes, so is everyone else. When everyone around you is also a little bit broken, how can anyone begin to piece one’s self back together? Young love, old guilt, laughter, and lingering scars all keep the girl, the town, and Alley’s symbolic “bottle tree” on the verge of shattering.
Directed by Jackie Apodaca. Cast: Emily Serdahl, Josiah Polhemus, Amy Prosser, Galen A. Molk, Liisa Ivary, Britney Simpson, Truett Felt, Dominique Francis, and Samuel L. Wick. Underwritten by James L. Auchincloss. Friday, 10/23, 1:30 p.m. • Saturday, 10/24, 7:30 p.m.
The Luckiest People by Meridith Friedman
Meridith Friedman was born in Madison, Wisconsin, and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. She received her BA from Connecticut College and her MFA in Writing for the Stage and Screen from Northwestern University. Her play The Firestorm is a current National New Play Network (NNPN) Rolling World Premiere, receiving productions in Chicago, Dallas, and Boulder; it also earned her a spot on The Kilroys Honorable Mention List in 2015. Her work has been developed and workshopped at The Kennedy Center, Chicago Dramatists, The Greenhouse Theatre Center, Curious Theatre Company, the NNPN National New Play Showcase, New Repertory Theatre, The Lark, Actor’s Express, Interlochen Center for the Arts, Kitchen Dog Theater, Stage Left Theatre, LOCAL Theatre Company, The Samuel French OOB Short Play Festival, The American Southwest Theatre Company at NMSU, The Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed Musicals, and Florida Repertory Theatre. She was the NNPN playwright-in-residence at Curious Theatre Company for its 2010–2011 season, a 2012–2013 Dramatist Guild Fellow, and the recipient of a 2013–2014 Downstage Left Playwriting Residency at Stage Left Theatre. She was awarded the 2014 NNPN Annual Commission to write and develop a new play with Curious Theatre Company, The Luckiest People. Meridith was a visiting assistant professor of drama at Kenyon College for the 2011–2012 academic year and taught two sections of screenwriting to undergraduates while completing her graduate work at Northwestern University. She has also taught playwriting to talented high school and middle school dramatists at Interlochen Center for the Arts and Curious Theatre Company. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild and is currently working on the books for two new musicals. meridithfriedman.com
The Luckiest People explores the question: What is our responsibility to our parents? In the days following his mother’s funeral, Richard is forced to grapple with that question. When his elderly father, Oscar, proposes moving in with him, Richard, happily settled with his husband, is less than enthusiastic about the idea. Unbeknownst to Oscar, an adopted son will soon be occupying the spare bedroom in Richard’s Santa Barbara condo. Years of unspoken hostilities and resentments are unleashed, spiraling the men into a vicious game of finger pointing. Tensions reach a breaking point when Oscar’s growing suspicions over the circumstances of his wife’s death lead him to make a startling accusation against his son.
Directed by Kyle Haden. Cast: Rex Young, James Edmondson, Paul Michael Garcia, Kate Berry, and Erin O’Connor. Underwritten by Jane and Bill Bardin. Wednesday, 10/21, 7:30 p.m. • Saturday, 10/24, 1:30 p.m.
The Return of Tartuffe by Brian Mulholland
Brian Mulholland is a native New Englander now living in Cincinnati. The Return of Tartuffe is his first play. In addition to its selection for ANPF 2015, the play was named the winner of the Stanley Drama Award, First Finalist for the Playwrights First Award, and a finalist for Abingdon Theatre’s Christopher Brian Wolk Award. Brian’s previous theatrical experience was as an actor, having appeared in leading roles at the Southwest Shakespeare Festival, Montana Rep, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Dartmouth Summer Repertory, and Seattle’s Palace and Cirque Theaters, among others. Television credits include roles on thirtysomething, Highway to Heaven, Designing Women, and Remington Steele, as well as a co-starring role in the TV movie The Case of the Hillside Stranglers.
In The Return of Tartuffe, that seventeenth-century swindler, whose delicious comic villainy has made him an audience favorite for 350 years, has returned. In this sequel to Molière’s classic comedy—written, like the original, in rhyming couplets—Tartuffe finds himself exiled to the American colonies, where he targets the famous Boston minister Cotton Mather for his next scam. Mather is a fierce proponent of the controversial theory of inoculation, but it’s a battle he’s been losing until Tartuffe, armed with a tall tale, swings opinion in Mather’s favor. When Tartuffe then borrows a page from “inoculation theory” to seduce a beautiful maid indentured in the Mather household, a family debate rages as to his intentions. Schemes are hatched, traps are planned, disguises are donned, and tables are turned (more than once)—and nothing is quite as it seems.
Directed by Dawn Monique Williams. Cast: Barret O’Brien, Bruce A. Young, Kimberly Scott, Savanna Padilla, Allison Buck, Cesar Perez Rosas, Rafael Untalan, and Robin Waisanen. Underwritten by Norma and Fred Wright. Thursday, 10/22, 1:30 p.m. • Friday, 10/23, 7:30 p.m.
Host Playwright EM Lewis
EM Lewis, an ANPF 2008 winner with her play Song of Extinction, returns to Ashland again this year as our host playwright. She will welcome this year’s winners, moderate the talkbacks, and lead the playwriting workshop. Ellen received the 2012 Fellowship in Playwriting from the New Jersey State Council for the Arts, a 2010–2011 Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University, and both the Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award for Song of Extinction and the Primus Prize for Heads from the American Theater Critics Association. Her plays have been produced around the world and published by Samuel French. Recent productions include Song of Extinction at the Guthrie and Hostos College; Heads at the Pittsburgh Playhouse; Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday at HotCity Theater in St. Louis; Infinite Black Suitcase at University of Southern California and Staples High School; and the world premieres of The Study (or Reading to Vegetables) at University of Washington in Seattle and True Story at Passage Theater in New Jersey. She continues to make progress on her epic Antarctic adventure story Magellanica: A New and Accurate Map of the World, which she worked on this spring during a nine-week residency at the William Inge Center for the Arts; the play received readings at Moving Arts in Los Angeles and Project Y in New York City in summer 2014. Ellen recently completed a yearlong course of study to become an opera librettist as a resident artist in American Lyric Theater’s 2013–2014 Composer Librettist Development Program; her first chamber opera, The Resurrection Engine, written with composer Evan Meier, was performed in New York City in June 2014. Her play The Gun Show (a one-person show about guns and gun control) received its world premiere at 16th Street Theater in Chicago in July 2014. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild and lives on her family’s farm in Oregon. emlewisplaywright.com
Lewis moderates the talkbacks after all the readings and leads the playwriting workshop.