37th Humana Festival of New American Plays Preview

by Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom
Actors Theatre of Louisville, Kentucky is hosting the 37th Humana Festival of New American Plays which runs from February 27 – April 7, 2013. The Humana Foundation first sponsored the new play festival in 1980, and has continued as a major supporter.
Certainly we all like the classics, but new American plays excite theatregoers, and this festival has been a most important source for bringing new works to the public. We have compiled a list of Humana plays that have been produced in the North Florida area over the years. See how many you have seen and try to recall where you saw them: AFTER ASHLEY, ANTON IN SHOW BUSINESS, BEAST ON THE MOON, CRIMES OF THE HEART, DINNER WITH FRIENDS, ELEEMOSYNARY, GOD’S MAN IN TEXAS, KEELY & DU, PRIVATE EYES, OMINIUM GATHERUM, TALES OF THE LOST FORMICANS, THE BATTING CAGE, THE GIN GAME, and THE RUBY SUNRISE.
The Dual Critics have covered 26 previous Festivals for Entertaining U, and we are looking forward to our 27th and the opportunity to meet Actor’s new Artistic Director Les Waters, formerly with Berkeley Repertory. Mr. Waters directed the original production of Sara Ruhl’s IN THE NEXT ROOM OR THE VIBRATOR PLAY, which will be on stage during March at Player’s by the Sea in Jacksonville Beach.
Actor’s Theatre receives well over 2,000 plays annually for production consideration by the Festival, which to date has produced over 400 plays representing over 200 playwrights. While the weekends of March 29 – 31 and April 5 – 7 are designated as Theatre Industry weekends with customized packages designed for theatre professionals and press, the general public is welcome to all productions throughout the duration of the festival; New Play Getaway packages are available. For more information visit actorstheatre.org.
What is on the schedule? A brief plot summary of this year’s offerings follows.
APPROPRIATE by Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins
When the Lafayettes descend upon a crumbling Arkansan plantation to liquidate their dead patriarch’s estate, his three adult children collide over clutter, debt and a contentious family history. A play about the trouble with inheritance, memory loss, and the art of repression.
From the moment Frank Bay and his daughter arrive at Thomas Wright’s secluded lake house, Thomas and his daughter is out to get them. Thomas’s writing has brought him fame and fortune, but fellow novelist Frank still struggles to find a foothold in the literary world. Over the course of one fraught evening, as the men confront their professional jealousies and personal failures, their offspring are drawn inexorably into the fray–and words become weapons.
CRY OLD KINGDOM by Jeff Augustin
Haiti, 1964. “Papa Doc” Duvalier’s repressive regime has forced once-successful artist Edwin into hiding. When Edwin finds a young man building a boat to escape to America, and persuades him to pose for a painting, he finally feels alive again. But with cries for revolution resounding through the nation and the regime’s death squads on the prowl, no one’s life is safe. Sometimes trying to dream and survive forces impossible choices.
GNIT by Will Eno
Watch closely as Peter Gnit, a funny-enough but so-so specimen of humanity, makes a lifetime of bad decisions, on the search for his true self, which is disintegrating while he searches. A rollicking and very cautionary tale about, among other things, how the opposite of love is laziness. Gnit is a faithful, unfaithful, and willfully American misreading of Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, a 19th century Norwegian play which is famous for all the wrong reasons written by Will Eno, who has never been to Norway.
Lila grew up in an ashram, but she does not want to go to yoga class with you. Not because she doesn’t like stretching or has no discipline or worries she might be bad at it. Not because she does not like you. The reason Lila doesn’t want to go to yoga class is not easy to explain—but let her try. A disarming look at the precarious process of becoming yourself.

Two other events are exclusive to the weekends of March 29 – 31 and April 5 – 7. First, the 2012-2013 Acting Apprentice Company performs on both weekends. This year, SLEEP ROCK THY BRAIN, by Rinnie Groff, Lucas Hnath and Anne Washburn, will explore the cutting-edge science of sleep. Although sleep takes up fully one-third of our lives, its purpose has long been shrouded in mystery. One thing for sure; the mind at night is anything but quiet. Using the words of the playwrights, the Acting Apprentice Company will let their imaginations take flight, harnessing science and spectacle to explore the rich complexities of the sleeping brain.
In addition, on the weekend of April 5-7 only, the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust and the American Theatre Critics will join together to present the New Play Award, which will be followed by three ten-minute plays. Only one has been announced so far and that is Sarah Ruhl’s “Two Conversations Overheard on Airplanes.”
Actors Theatre is located in downtown Louisville and performs year-round with plays on three stages. If you are in the area, be sure to visit the theatre, now in its 48th year. If you don’t have time to see a play, then check out the excellent restaurant they have on the premises.
Look for our review of the 37th Humana Festival of New American Plays in EU the second week of April.