Playwrights span Presidential Medal of Freedom winner, Colorado Springs native and ‘the definitive voice of Middle Eastern American theatre’
The DCPA Theatre Company’s 15th annual Colorado New Play Summit will bring familiar and new names to Denver and the Rocky Mountain region’s largest new-play festival.
The festival, which will take place under the leadership of Artistic Director Chris Coleman over two weekends February 15-16 and 21-23, will feature readings of new plays by Benjamin Benne, L M Feldman, Yussef El Guindi, Colorado native Jessica Kahkoska, and co-writers Suzan Shown Harjo and Mary Kathryn Nagle. Festival visitors also will attend previously announced, fully staged word-premiere productions by Bonnie Metzgar (You Lost Me) and Tony Meneses (twenty50).
“As we celebrate the 15th year of the Colorado New Play Summit, it is exciting to look back at the many playwrights whose work we heard for the first time and celebrate where they are now, such as one of the most-produced plays in theatre of the 2019-20 season, Lauren Yee’s The Great Leap,” said Chris Coleman, Artistic Director of the DCPA Theatre Company. “The Colorado New Play Summit allows audiences to get a front-row seat into the developmental process of new work as we collaborate with some of the nation’s most exciting playwrights.”
Kahkoska is a native of Black Forest and a graduate of Rampart High School in Colorado Springs. Driven by a Colorado-based, oral history research process, her new play, now titled In Her Bones, received the 2019 Powered by Off-Center Residency at the DCPA. She says her new play with music takes a deep dive into the complicated legacy of Crypto-Judaism in the Southwest, illuminating, in her words, “an unlikely alpine tale of secrecy, faith, and fear and exploring how culture is passed on when written records are too dangerous to keep.”
Benne, a playwright and puppeteer, last month won the 2019 National Latinx Playwriting Award for Alma, the play that will be featured at the Summit. Feldman, also a Creative Writing Lecturer at Bryn Mawr College, wrote the DCPA Theatre Company world premiere of Grace, or the Art of Climbing that premiered here in 2013. El Guindi was recently hailed as “the definitive voice of Middle Eastern American theatre.” Nagle is a DCPA Theatre Company commissioned playwright and a partner at Pipestem Law, a firm specializing in tribal sovereignty of Native nations. Harjo is an advocate for American Indian rights who has helped Native peoples recover more than one million acres of tribal lands.
Hailed as a “must-see stop for new-play development” by American Theatre, the Colorado New Play Summit is the DCPA’s signature festival dedicated to supporting playwrights and developing new work. Participating playwrights are given two weeks with professional directors, actors and dramaturgs to workshop new plays. Industry professionals and the public are invited to meet the artists, experience staged readings and provide feedback on the work as it is being developed.
Since its founding in 2006, the Colorado New Play Summit has introduced 64 new plays, over half of which returned to the stage as full Theatre Company productions. Among the Summit world premieres are Lauren Gunderson’s The Book of Will, Lauren Yee’s The Great Leap, José Cruz González’s American Mariachi, Donnetta Lavinia Gray’s Last Night and the Night Before, Tanya Saracho’s FADE, Matthew Lopez’s The Legend of Georgia McBride, Samuel D. Hunter’s The Whale, Theresa Rebeck’s The Nest, Karen Zacarias’ Just Like Us, and Dick Scanlan’s reimagined version of The Unsinkable Molly Brown, which will be debuting as an off-Broadway production at the Abrons Arts Center in New York while the 2020 Summit is going on back here in Denver.
THE READINGS: NEW PLAYS AND PLAYWRIGHTS
Alma | By Benjamin Benne
For Alma, an undocumented Mexican immigrant, and her 17-year-old daughter, Angel, a study session uncovers the dreams and despair over their future. As Alma quizzes Angel with vocabulary for the SATs, Angel tests Alma on American History for the citizenship exam. Feeling both an overwhelming excitement over the possibilities their tests can offer as well as the dread about the laws and loopholes stacked against them, they encourage each other to find hope in the uncertainty. But will the American Dream cost them a life together? Benjamin Benne’s touching family drama won the Arizona Theatre Company’s 2019 National Latinx Playwriting Award and American Blues Theater’s 2019 Blue Ink Playwriting Award.
Another Kind of Silence | by L M Feldman
Balancing work, love and everything in between doesn’t come easily for two artistic couples living in Greece. Chap’s artwork lines the walls of her partner Ana’s café while Peter’s successful career as a composer overshadows his wife Evan’s struggle to write. When Evan and Chap spark an intimate friendship, the two couples and their four “shadow-souls “must confront the challenges of communication and the transformative nature of desire. A bilingual play unfurling simultaneously in English and American Sign Language, this breathtaking ensemble piece was a finalist for the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference and received Honorable Mentions from both The Kilroys List and the FEWW Prize.
Hotter than Egypt | by Yussef El Guindi
No matter where you live, the ups and downs of married life are universal. For a middle-aged American couple traveling to Egypt on a business trip-slash-vacation, their relationship is put to the test when an old connection leads to new temptation. Drawing from the political, cultural and religious realities of living in the region, this fiery drama set in the heat of Cairo pits loyalty against attraction as its characters grapple with the ever-changing realities of staying committed to their partners. Middle East American Distinguished Playwright Award winner Yussef El Guindi specializes “in cultural and geographical displacement, from alienated couples to the promises and frustrations of immigration, and the ways people maneuver through foreignness and belonging” (Seattle Times).
Reclaiming One Star | by Suzan Shown Harjo and Mary Kathryn Nagle
DCPA Theatre Company Commission
The truth proves stranger than fiction in the story behind the racist name of the football franchise the Washington R*dsk*ns. Team owners have long maintained that the name honors Native Americans because it pays homage to an early coach, allegedly a “full-blooded Sioux.” But when Tony One Star sets out to uncover the facts behind his granduncle’s life and mysterious death, he shatters the myth behind the mascot. Equal parts detective thriller and courtroom drama, DCPA commissioned playwright/lawyer Mary Kathryn Nagle and 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom winner and policy advocate Suzan Shown Harjo’s new work draws from their experiences and real-life legal intrigue to give you an insider’s look at the multifaceted case, including perspectives of attorneys defending the team’s name and the people they want to keep quiet about the slur.
In Her Bones | by Jessica Kahkoska
Colorado’s San Luis Valley is world-renowned for its beauty, but the area holds a deeper clandestine heritage: the legacy of Sephardic Jews who fled the Spanish Inquisition five centuries ago. When Mia returns to the region for her grandmother’s funeral, she’s forced to confront a past that she is both fleeing and seeking out. As she looks back on family memories, another world creeps in — one of shadows, forgotten prayers, and secrets hiding right in plain sight. Unearth the complicated legacy of Crypto-Judaism in the Southwest through this unlikely alpine tale of faith, fear and how we pass on culture when written records are too dangerous to keep.
FULLY STAGED PRODUCTIONS:
twenty50 | by Tony Meneses
- Directed by Henry Godinez
- World Premiere
- DCPA Theatre Company Commission | Developed at the 2019 Colorado New Play Summit
Andres Salazar is running for office. By this time, Latinx people have been assimilated into the majority of the United States, but race issues are far from resolved. In this tricky political environment, Andres must decide whether identifying himself as a Mexican American will help or hinder him on Election Day, and whether losing some of his own identity is worth the potential social benefits. When a mysterious stranger appears at their house, Andres’ family rallies around him to save his imperiled campaign in this insightful drama from rising playwright Tony Meneses, “a distinctive voice worthy of attention” (New Jersey Star Ledger).
On the brink of our upcoming presidential election, this suspenseful thriller peels back the façade of campaign-trail craziness to reveal how power and shifting identity blur our truths with those of the greater whole.
You Lost Me | by Bonnie Metzgar
- Directed by Margot Bordelon
- World Premiere
- Developed at the 2019 Colorado New Play Summit
In 1828, 17-year-old Ann Harvey saved 160 Irish people from a wreck off of Newfoundland’s Shipwreck Coast, making her an instant hero. Almost 200 years later, the Harvey family homestead has become the Shipwreck Inn, where present-day proprietress Ann Harvey attempts to leave her own mark (and get some new customers) with a tourist blog. Her nephew Joe-L, on the other hand, would do anything to leave his hometown and start a new life somewhere else.
Freely flow through time as unexpected guests and echoes of the past leave their indelible mark on the people that hold vigil along their remote and rocky shore. A memory house for all those lost at sea, this Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Festival finalist is a poetic, wistful and bright new drama that reminds us that every moment holds the opportunity to change everything.
The 15th Annual Colorado New Play Summit
- Launch Weekend: February 15-16, 2020. These events will go on sale in January 2020.
- Festival Weekend: February 21-23, 2020. All-inclusive Festival Weekend packages include five play readings and two fully staged world premieres, plus meals and special events, and are on sale now.
- Details and packages available at denvercenter.org
The 2020 Colorado New Play Summit is presented by AT&T, Sheri & Lee Archer/New Wave Enviro, The Joy S. Burns Commission in Women’s Playwriting, Daniel L. Ritchie, Semple Brown Design, Robert & Carole Slosky, and Transamerica.
Photo gallery: 2019 Colorado New Play Summit
Photos by Adams VisCom and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
Video bonus: Regina Taylor performs at the 2019 Summit
Follow the DCPA on social media @DenverCenter and at the DCPA’s online NewsCenter.