Spanish playwrights get a reading on a D.C. stage


Jessica Lefkow, Jon Reynolds and Wyckham Avery in the production Beertown from Dog & Pony DC. (C. Stanley Photography)
September 24, 2013

“New Plays From Spain,” a collaboration among Spain Arts & Culture, Studio Theatre, No Rules Theatre Company and Theater Alliance, will bring the newly translated work of Spanish playwrights to the District.

Gillian Drake, curator and co-producer of the readings, selected plays from a volume produced by the Spanish Embassy, also titled “New Plays From Spain.” The embassy “wanted to try to develop more of an innovative relationship with [some] cutting-edge, young theater companies,” she said. Spain “has a tremendous writing heritage. . . . The Spanish writers are really fabulous writer-writers. They work with words, with nuance.”

The reading “was about building relationships,” said Drake, which is why she focused on Spanish playwrights who “are living in the United States and could come here and be involved in rehearsals and could start a conversation so they could start an independent relationship with these theaters. . . . [Then] we looked at the theater companies we have, and what do they do best?”

No Rules will perform “Medea’s Got Some Issues,” by Emilio Williams. “It’s a solo piece, an update on Medea, and her problem is that she emigrated . . . and now she’s an abandoned wife without a country,” said Drake. “It’s really about immigration and being without a country.”

“39 Defaults,” by Mar Gómez Glez, is “a living room drama-comedy about two activists,” with a “voice [that] seemed right for the kind of work Studio does,” Drake said.

Theater Alliance will produce “Typing,” “a very funny, character-driven thing about outsourcing in a way, about what happens when you have a non-ending recession,” Drake said.

Colin Hovde, artistic director of Theater Alliance, is directing the reading of “Typing,” by Cristina Colmena. “There’s a major importance in dealing with local issues and supporting local artists,” Hovde said. “But also, at the same time, we need to look at our global community and what the stories are that resonate across national boundaries.”

“It really does allow playwrights that otherwise might not have access to theater companies like Theater Alliance and No Rules and Studio an opportunity to really get to know us,” Hovde said. “It’s challenging when a playwright just submits a script to build a relationship. When there’s an opportunity to do a reading like this, the end result might not be a production, but it could be a really strong relationship with that playwright and, two or three years down the line, a production.”

Monday at 7 p.m., 2801 16th St. NW, www.spainculture.us/calendar/955, 202-728-2379. Colmena, Williams and Glez will participate in a discussion with the audience after the free event.

A new citizen in ‘Beertown’

Pete Miller, longtime supporter of Dog & Pony D.C., is making the ultimate fan transition: from audience member to actor, as he joins the cast of “Beertown” for the performances in rep (with “A Killing Game”) at Round House Theatre.

“In some ways, it’s a new genre of theater,” said Miller of the show. “On a good night, the audience talks more than the cast does. ”

Miller — whose thespian background consists of having once “shuffled on as an extra in “Bye Bye Birdie” — plays Arthur, the town newspaperman and the eldest character in the cast. “He really likes the job he has because it basically lets him collect people’s stories and tell them back to themselves,” said Miller.

Miller had plenty of material with which to work; though in the script Arthur has only “around 210 words,” each character in “Beertown” has a dossier that “gives you a sort of data field about that character, including how they feel about every other character in the play and how they feel about every artifact that’s in the capsule.”

“The amount of undisclosed back story that the company has created around each character is really quite deep,” Miller said. “In addition to the antecedents that are performed, those little skits, there must be at least 70 or 80 that they created during the devising process that wound up on the cutting room floor, but they didn’t throw them away. They’re in the characters’ dossiers.”

That iceberg-principle-style background is palpable during every performance. “The uninformed audience can walk into it and really get a sense of participating in something real. There is a great deal of detail that isn’t actively played, but it informs how all the actors make their improvisational decisions.”

Oct. 3-19 at Round House ­Theatre Silver Spring, 8641 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring. www.dogandponydc.com , 202-670-5347 .

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