2014 Colorado New Play Summit

The ninth annual Colorado New Play Summit was held last weekend at the Denver Center Theatre Company and offered an eclectic mix in its five staged readings of new plays plus two fully produced world premieres.

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Here are brief descriptions of the five new plays which had readings at this year’s Summit:

The Comparables by Laura Schellhardt, directed by Braden Abraham —  a 3-character play about women in a high-end boutique real estate firm.  The play’s clever dialogue frames a more serious look at the relationships and interactions among women in a competitive corporate setting.

Appoggiatura by James Still, directed by Risa Brainin —  set in Venice, Italy where a violin-playing Vivaldi punctuates this lovely story of family, love, loss and healing.  The warmth and wit of this one caused widespread positive buzz throughout the entire Summit weekend.

Benediction by Eric Schmiedl based on the novel by Kent Haruf, directed by Kent Thompson (third in a trilogy of adaptations staged by this team at the Denver Center) –

part of the 17-member cast of th reading of "Benediction"

part of the 17-member cast of the reading of “Benediction”

an episodic, faithful-to-the-novel glimpse of characters and connections in a town on the high plains of eastern Colorado in an engaging example of traditional theatre story-telling at its best.

 

Victory Jones and the Incredible One Woman Band
the second break beat play 
by Idris Goodwin, directed by Wendy C. Goldberg — despite its title and effective use of  break beat, rap and hip hop music as both subject matter and scene,  this is really a father/daughter relationship play with some compelling characters, updated dialogue and age-old themes.

Zenith by Kirsten Greenidge, directed by Randy White — shows the surface of two families, related by marriage, and hints at what may be bubbling underneath to cause an unexpected and tragic climax of the play.

 

The two fully produced plays, part of Denver Center Theatre Company’s subscription series, both had staged readings in last year’s Colorado New Play Summit and are both terrific examples of how well great production values can enhance, intensify, clarify and even improve an already wonderful play.

The Legend of Georgia McBride, by Matthew Lopez and directed by Mike Donahue, was the hit of the Summit and has been consistently filling the house throughout its commercial run.

"The Legend of Georgia McBride" photo by John Moore

“The Legend of Georgia McBride”
photo by John Moore

I had adored the reading last year, but I was overwhelmed by this amazing  full production.  I had thought that, as good as the play was, this could be a difficult show to market and find an audience for – it’s about a straight man who, through an unplanned quirk of fate, finds his calling as a drag performer.  He’s great at it, but coming to terms with his talent and the milieu in which he works is a journey – for himself,  his wife and the other people who love him. This show is so much fun — so colorful, so human, so thoughtful;  its themes and subject are really much more universal than would initially appear and the audience reaction seemed to prove that.  It is just gorgeously written, directed, designed and performed and I predict a New York production is not far off based on the thunderous standing ovation and wide appeal.

Marcus Gardley’s black odyssey was also well served by stunning production values.  It’s hard to imagine better costumes, props  or set design for this play and they helped make his lyrical language more mythical and clarified who was who and where they were in the time/place continuum in what could sometimes be a complex structure.   An aesthetically delightful production.

SLAM1

Playwright James Still

In addition to the seven plays we saw, Summit attendees  were invited to the Late Night Playwrights’ Slam where Denver Center commissioned playwrights  read something of their choice in an informal setting in Denver’s  black box Jones Theatre. Reading playwrights included Eric Schmiedl, James Still, Catherine Trieschmann, Kirsten Greenidge, Marcus Gardley and Karen Zacarías.

The Colorado New Play Summit is, and continues to grow into, one of the destination new works festivals for some of the most engaging and diverse new plays in the country by both emerging and established playwrights.  I’ll go back!

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