Colorado New Play Summit opening-day photo gallery:
The DCPA Theatre Company today welcomed dozens of actors, playwrights, directors and crew for the first day of rehearsal for the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. The 12th annual festival will feature readings of new works by Donnetta Lavinia Grays, Rogelio Martinez, Eric Pfeffinger, Robert Schenkkan and Lauren Yee.
The Colorado New Play Summit presents readings of new plays over two weeks as the playwrights continue to craft their developing works alongside a full, professional creative team. Audiences also are offered the opportunity to see two fully staged world premiere productions that emerged from the previous year’s Summit: The Book of Will by Lauren Gunderson and Two Degrees by Tira Palmquist. In addition, the DCPA Theatre Company is presenting the regional premiere of Lucas Hnath’s The Christians. Most of the Summit actors are also appearing in one of those three mainstage plays.
“I always feel blessed at this time of year when we get to tell new stories that provide windows on the world,” said DCPA Artistic Director Kent Thompson. “Our audiences can see how these playwrights and these artists are responding to the world around them today.”
(Pictured right: Olivia Sullivent in rehearsal for ‘Last Night and the Night Before.’ Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)
Tuesday’s launch was bittersweet given that the 2017 Summit will be Thompson’s last. Thompson, who founded the Summit upon his arrival in Denver in 2006, has announced his resignation effective March 3.
“We have workshopped 50 plays at the Summit,” Thompson said. “We have had 44 playwrights, including 20 female playwrights. We have had 27 world premieres that began at the Summit, and we have launched two major musicals (The Unsinkable Molly Brown and Sense and Sensibility the Musical).”
Three years ago, Thompson (pictured at right) expanded the Summit by a week so that once playwrights get their work in front of an audience, they can take feedback and come back for another round of rehearsals and readings.
“These two weeks are really about the playwright,” Thompson said.
The five 2017 Summit readings will take audiences from an American suburb to Brooklyn to China to Nazi Germany to the first meeting between Reagan and Gorbechev.
New DCPA Associate Artistic Director Nataki Garrett said this is an important time in history for playwrights. “It’s the playwright’s responsibility to always have their ear not only to the present, but also to the future,” she said. “What I am most most excited about the plays we are about to unpack at the Summit is that these playwrights have one foot in the present and one foot in the future. We will get to the other side.”
Here is a look at each featured Summit play, with an introduction from each of the playwrights:
Last Night and the Night Before
By Donnetta Lavinia Grays
When Monique and her 10-year-old daughter Samantha show up unexpectedly on her sister’s Brooklyn doorstep, it’s the beginning of the end for Rachel and her partner Nadima’s orderly New York lifestyle. Monique is on the run from deep trouble, and her husband is nowhere to be seen. The family’s deep Southern roots have a long reach, and they grab hold of Rachel’s life stronger than she could have ever imagined.
Says Grays: “It’s fitting that today is Valentine’s Day because I think this play is squarely about the power and dynamic of love. There are questions around motherhood, what defines motherhood, what defines being a woman, what makes a family, and what loss is as well.”
Directed by Valerie Curtis-Newton
Dramaturgy by Lauren Whitehead
Sam: Olivia Sullivent
Monique: Brynn Tucker
Reggie: Cajardo Lindsay
Rachel: Jasmine Hughes
Nadima: Valeka Holt
Stage Directions: Tresha Farris
By Rogelio Martinez
A DCPA Theatre Company commission
This play centers on odd-couple Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev’s first meeting in Geneva in an attempt to open up channels between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Though members of their cabinets try to keep them on track, the leaders steer the conversation to pop culture and films. While the men chip away at the mistrust between their countries, Nancy Reagan and Raisa Gorbachev play out a passive-aggressive tango that mirrors their husbands’ negotiations. This play is the conclusion to Martinez’s Cold War trilogy. Martinez previously wrote the DCPA Theatre Company’s world premiere of When Tang Met Laika.
Says Martinez: “At some point in their lives, both of these men took a huge pivot. They they were from completely different philosophies and had different ideas. But for a small moment in time they became idealists and they believed in something that no one else believed in. Ultimately the play is about trust: Can one person trust the other across the negotiating table?
Directed by Giovanna Sardelli
Dramaturgy by Douglas Langworthy
George Shultz: Liam Craig
Eduard Shevardnadze: Steve Brady
Mikhail Gorbachev: Triney Sandavol
Ronald Reagan: Victor Slezak
Edmund Morris: Kurt Rhoads
Raisa Gorbachev: Kathleen McCall
Nancy Reagan: Nance Williamson
Peter, Politburo Member, Dimitri Zarechnak: Rodney Lizcano
Stage Directions: Mehry Eslaminia
By Eric Pfeffinger
Madelyn and Keenan are NPR-listening, latte-sipping, blue-state liberals, while Heather and Jim are NRA-cardholding, truck-driving, red-state conservatives. After an unfortunate mix-up by their blundering fertility doctor, Heather is mistakenly impregnated with the wrong child. Now the two couples face sharing a nine-month’s odyssey of culture shock, clashing values, changing attitudes and unlikely friendships.
Says Pfeffinger: “One couple’s fertilized embryo has been mistakenly implanted in a stranger so, obviously, it’s a comedy: One of those classic ‘switched embryo’ farces. What ensues is the two couples trying to come to understand a kind of people they have never had any interest in knowing before.”
Directed by Jane Page
Dramaturgy by Amy Jensen
Madelyn: Caitlin Wise
Keenan: Robert Manning Jr.
Jim: John DiAntonio
Heather: Jennifer Le Blanc
Dr. Hoskins: Wesley Mann
Stage Directions: Drew Horwitz
By Robert Schenkkan
A DCPA Theatre Company commission
In 1930s Berlin, the brilliant mentalist Erik Jan Hanussen captivates German audiences with his ability to read minds and his uncanny predictions of the future. His reputation brings him to the attention of avid occultist Adolph Hitler. While his star seems to be on the rise, the consequences of his next major prediction (and his own true identity) may break his spell. Based on true events. Schenkkan is a Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright (All the Way, The 12).
Says Schenkkan: “The Weimar Republic seems like a good place to be visiting right now. It is said that Hanussen helped coach Hitler to improve his public speaking. That he cast Hitler’s horoscope. And that he may or may not have had some part in the Black Flag Operation known as The Reichstag fire. Hanussen was Jewish. This is a play about denial and avoidance and individual responsibility.”
Directed by Kent Thompson
Dramaturgy by Liz Engelman
Hanussen: Jamison Jones
Hitler: Richard Thieriot
Wolfe: Kevin Kilner
Ernerst Juhn, Bruno Frei and Stage Manager: Andy Nagraj
Fred Marion, Joseph Goebbles, Young Man and Manager: Robert Montano
Fritzi, Katrina and Maria Paudler: Sarah Schenkkan
Servant, Rudolf Steinle and Nobleman: Leigh Miller
Businessman and Kurt Egger: Jason Delane
Stage Directions: Luke Sorge
Manford From Half Court, or The Great Leap
By Lauren Yee
DCPA Theatre Company Commission
When an American college basketball team travels to Beijing for a “friendship” game in the post-Cultural Revolution 1980s, both countries try to tease out the politics behind this newly popular sport. Cultures clash as the Chinese coach tries to pick up moves from the Americans and a Chinese-American player named Manford spies on his opponents.
Says Yee: “What you need to know about The Great Leap is that my father is 6-foot-1. He grew up in San Francisco Chinatown, and before he had kids, the only thing he was good at was basketball. He was never going to the NBA, but he was good enough that even today in San Francisco, people stop us on the street and say, ‘I used to play you in basketball.’ And as they walk away, my dad is always like, ‘Yeah … and I kicked his ass.’ In the 1980s, my father and his Chinese-American teammates went to China to play a series of exhibition games throughout the country. And he got completely demolished in almost every single game. Apparently in Beijing, they played against all these 7-foot-6, 300-pound gods – and remember, my dad was 6-foot-1. And he was the tallest guy on his team. ‘We did not even know when they had the ball,’ he said.”
Directed by Josh Brody
Dramaturgy by Kristen Leahey
Manford: Kevin Lin
Saul: Brian Keane
Wen Chang: Francis Jue
Connie: Jo Mei
Stage Directions: Samantha Long
The 12th Annual Colorado New Play Summit
Launch Weekend: Feb. 18-19
Festival Weekend: Feb. 24-26
More details: denvercenter.org/summit