New Is the Word for TheatreWorks’ New Works Festival

New is certainly an apt descriptor of this summer’s New Works Festival at TheatreWorks.  The Palo Alto, California festival has more “new” than ever this year, starting with its exciting appointment of Giovanna Sardelli as Director of New Works.

Giovanna Sardelli

Giovanna Sardelli

A future post will profile Giovanna in more detail; for now, here’s what had to say:   “Sardelli brings stellar national directing credits and close ties with many of today’s hottest rising playwrights to the company, which has established itself as a leader in cultivating and producing new works. No stranger to TheatreWorks, Sardelli helmed the company’s 2013 production of Somewhere by rising star Matthew Lopez, as well as the TheatreWorks’ 2011 World Premiere of Pulitzer Prize-nominee Rajiv Joseph’s The North Pool, named by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of that year’s ten best productions in the Bay Area.”

When Sardelli announced the line-up for this year’s New Works Festival, her influence was already apparent — a touch of New York edge, a heightened level of excitement and risk-taking and an eclectic mix of known talent and emergent stars, in both the artists and the works chosen.   I had the opportunity to hear a preview of a few songs from one of the new musicals in development (Norman Rockwell’s America) earlier this year and was wowed by the quality of the work; I am already a big fan of several of the artists involved in the festival so I am really looking forward to this one!

Here are TheatreWorks’ brief descriptions of the plays and musicals to be read during the August 9 – 17 New Works Festival:

Describe the Night by Rajiv Joseph —  A Provocative Political Drama

From the author of The North Pool and Broadway’s Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, this stimulating drama probes the mysterious 2010 crash of a Polish airplane, uncovering 90 years of lies, infidelity, war, secrets, and love.


Kimber Lee

tokyo fish story by Kimber Lee —  A Test of Tradition

Generations, gender, and tradition collide as a Sushi Master struggles to preserve ancient artistry in a society obsessed with change. In pursuit of perfection, a brilliant protégé, eager apprentices, and the master himself have much to learn.

Norman Rockwell’s America book by Lynne Kaufman, music and lyrics by Alex Mandel — An Illustrated Musical

From belittled illustrator to ballyhooed artist, from whimsical covers to unforgettable images of the Civil Rights Movement, Norman Rockwell captured America’s heart by discovering its soul. This is his story—and ours.

The Disappearing Man  book, music and lyrics by Jahn Sood – A Big-Top Folk Musical

A ramshackle circus wows the hinterlands in 1936, but backstage its bright-light attractions prove dark and depleted. Purveyors of dreams, makers of magic, these center-ring survivors grasp at change, but the trapeze may be just out of reach.


Shakina Nayfack (photo: Nicki Ishmael)

Shakina Nayfack
(photo: Nicki Ishmael)


One Woman Show  written and performed by Shakina Nayfack – Journey of a Lifetime

Features new takes on some classic covers and original songs by Joe Iconis (NBC’s Smash), Julianne Wick Davis (Southern Comfort), Nikko Benson, Sam Salmond, & Joel Waggoner.

This darkly funny and powerful musical chronicles the misadventures of a transgender artist now on the brink of reassignment surgery. Told with a cabaret edge, it is a story of surviving the 90s with determination and pride.

See TheatreWorks’ website for information on the dates and times of the readings and how to get tickets and festival passes.  The website also provides more about the writers and festival extras such as the popular “Meet the Artists” panel.


On a related note, TheatreWorks opened its new main stage season with the World Premiere of the hit from last year’s New Works Festival:  The Great Pretender.  This sweet and poignant little gem by David West Read, directed by Stephen Brackett,  is touching the heart of audiences and critics.  See it now through August 3 at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto.


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