Page-to-Stage New Play Festival

Page-to-Stage New Play Festival

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

This Labor Day weekend, you can hike around Camp Ken Cen and hear readings of new plays, either excerpted or in full, presented by 25 area theater companies. And you won't even have to make lanyards!

The seventh annualPage-to-Stage New Play Festivalis part of the Kennedy Center's Prelude 2008: Arts Across America fest, which launches the new season. "People will drop into a play, hear part of it, stay if they get hooked, leave if they don't," says Chris Henley of Washington Shakespeare Company.

Washington Shakespeare's offerings for the festival are "Ngala Muti," Emily Solomon's play about Americans on a private safari in Africa, and "Sofonisba" by Callie Kimball, about Sofonisba Anguissola, a great female painter of Renaissance Italy. Kimball says she is "interested in the power struggles": "How did she navigate in the world she was in, when it was very unusual for a woman to do that?"

Theater J will present actor-folksinger Theodore Bikel in a performance of "Sholom Aleichem: Laughter Through Tears," about the Yiddish writer.

Journeymen Theatre Ensemble will read Jacqueline E. Lawton's "A Delicate People," about the fault lines between homosexuality and Christianity, and "The Faithful" by Scott Organ, about a child bride who has left a cult and a former minister, who rents a room for her. Both plays, Journeymen's Deborah Kirby says, deal with "faith and personal identity."

Excerpts of five new works by writers nurtured by the Inkwell incubator group include a comic sequel to "Cyrano de Bergerac" called "Hercule de Bergerac" by Adam Jonas Segaller. "We are getting to know playwrights," says Inkwell's Jessica Burgess. "It's like our first date . . . we're looking to create a longer relationship with all of them."

Inkwell also will hold a panel on whether playwrights are too coddled by theaters (inspired by an article by Nelson Pressley in The Post), and give a full-length reading of Greg Beuthin's "A Time Upon," a "gritty, funny, very very dark" fairy tale, Burgess says.

"Alighieri's Assent" by James Lawry is about a defrocked priest who fights for the Partisans in World War II Italy and his encounter with a friend who fights for the Fascists and has a special grudge against him. The oblique reference to Dante (Alighieri was his surname), according to Taffety Punk Theatre Company's Marcus Kyd, reflects the ex-priest's journey "from muck to grace."

"Homokay's Medea," Julianne Homokay's comic, contemporary take on the Greek tragedy, will be read by Venus Theatre. "It's hilarious, and that's the thing that shocks me most," says Venus's Deb Randall, who will play the title role. "It's so funny that we can hardly get through a rehearsal."

Joe Calarco reworked the book for and will direct excerpts of the new musical "The Last Days of Cleopatra," with music, lyrics and original book by Charlie Barnett. The show, which premiered at New York's 2005 International Fringe Festival, is about the scandal on the set of "Cleopatra" in the early 1960s when Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton fell in love despite their respective spouses. "I thought it was a great idea and a big idea. It was exciting to write," Calarco says. "It's fun to comment on our insatiable obsession with celebrity."

Washington Stage Guild will do "Lord Arthur Savile's Crime," adapted by Bill Largess from "a very very funny little story" by Oscar Wilde. Learning from a palm reader that he's destined to commit murder, the young aristocrat Arthur decides he'd better do it before he gets married and that his victim should be a family member, since killing a stranger would be rude. Largess says "it's about him trying and failing to kill his various relatives, because he's not very good at it."

-- Jane Horwitz

© 2008 The Washington Post Company