Pacific Playwrights Festivals 2017 — The Company’s The Thing

Another balmy weekend in Costa Mesa seeing exceptional new work at the Pacific Playwrights Festival.  One of the best annual festivals in the country, South Coast Repertory does this so well it attracts top industry professionals every year.  They also invite dozens of playwrights to come as their guests — giving me the opportunity to meet and talk with them over meals and breaks!

Those talks with other attendees are at least as much a draw as the great new work itself.  Just to give you an idea of why this is so much fun for me, here is a sampling of some of my personal interactions:

  • After registration, there is a simple salad and sandwich arrivals lunch on the terrace where I join a friend, TheatreWork’s company manager and playwright Jeffrey Lo (whose new play Waiting For Next is having a reading at City Lights Theatre in San Jose this Friday night April 28 – so join me there!).   At this lunch I meet Jordan Puckett:  a playwright herself, she runs the Sandbox Series of new plays for the San Francisco Playhouse, a terrific place to see new work.  I also meet Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, an award-winning playwright and professor of playwriting at UC Santa Barbara who I talk to several times during the festival and who is so interesting I am very intrigued to see her work.
  • At the intermission of the reading of Amy Freed’s Shrew!, I re-introduce myself to playwright Dipika Guha (with whom I had a group dinner at last summer’s TheatreWork’s New Works Festival).  Her new Yoga Play is on my schedule for the following day so I don’t yet know how much I will love it.  Therefore, we speak about other things – including the evocative set of her play The Rules (high hanging rods of filmy, lightweight, sensuous women’s clothing and lingerie in all shades of nude and beige and white and palest pink) at the Sandbox Series a year ago.
  • After two afternoon readings, dinner is served on the terrace.  I am again joined by Jordan Puckett and we soon find our large round table full of actors,
     Amy Aquino

    Amy Aquino

    almost all of whom we recognize.  We both try and pretend that is no big deal as we chat with some of them (Amy Aquino, Matthew Arkin, Devon Sorvari, and Dominique Worsley) who are appearing in the currently running Michael Mitnick play The Siegel.  Also at the table are Dana Delany (!), Jon Tenney and Steven Culp and we will see the three of them in the next day’s reading of Donald Margulies’ painfully good new play Long Lost.

  • I briefly speak with playwright Kemp Powers, who wrote one of my favorite plays in last year’s festival, and he tells me Little Black Shadows will be produced by South Coast Rep next year and I should be able to see it if I come to the PPF next year.  Yay!  He also tells me he is currently writing the screenplay for the film of his Olivier award nominated play One Night In Miami.
  • Gail, a local theatre aficionado, introduces herself to me and tells me she is a regular reader of TheatrePlaybyPlay since meeting me here a couple of years ago.  We find each other several more times throughout the festival and exchange notes on our reactions to the readings.
  • At the playwrights’ panel discussion hosted by Madeleine Oldham, my favorite response to any question (in an hour full of interesting questions and answers) was by playwright Michael Mitnick who, when asked by Madeleine why making theatre is appealing given its impermanence, he simply answered “It’s so much fun”.
  • I unknowingly interrupt an interview of playwright Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm who I had met previously at readings
    Playwright Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm

    Playwright Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm

    of his plays Hooded or Being Black for Dummies and Br’er Cotton.  He finds me later and we get an opportunity to talk a little. Later, I remember an interaction with his fiance in a women’s room at a reading last year when she admired my bag and I told her I admired her fiancé; that is even more true now.  I love the way he writes.  His play at this festival, Anacostia Street Lions is so far my favorite of his plays. His use of language and the multi-layered story are wonderful.

  • I have an opportunity to give playwright Lauren Yee a big hug and tell her how happy I am that she is writing and that I don’t know which of her new plays I like better, The Great Leap, which I saw read at the Denver Summit a few months ago, or Cambodian Rock Band, her new play with music by the band Dengue Fever which I had just seen.
SCR rehearsal for reading of "Cambodian Rock Band" by Lauren Yee. Photo by Tania Thompson/SCR.

SCR rehearsal for reading of “Cambodian Rock Band” by Lauren Yee. Photo by Tania Thompson/SCR.

The new plays were all terrific.  The company was even better.  I’ll be back next year.

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1 Comment

  1. Ruth Schoenbach
    Apr 28, 2017

    Loved this post, Susan. Thanks for sharing your infectious enthusiasm.

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