First Recipient of the Terrence McNally New Play Award Announced On First Night of Readings

Philadelphia Theatre Company presents [email protected], a two-week festival of new work on February 29-March 11 at PTC’s home at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre (Broad and Lombard Streets).  The Festival will feature staged readings of four new plays from around the country, a new musical in development with music and lyrics by a collection of Broadway giants, and an evening of short plays by eight local playwrights. Each playwright will be in-residence at PTC for their reading, and every reading will conclude with a reception where audiences and artists can meet and mingle. All events are free with curtain time at 7:00 PM. A highlight of [email protected] will be the March 5th announcement of the winner of the Terrence McNally New Play Award, a $10,000 cash prize given annually to recognize a new play that celebrates the transformative power of art.

[email protected] is made possible with generous two-year grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Wyncote Foundation.

“Philadelphia Theatre Company has always maintained a deep commitment to providing opportunities for writers to develop their work in a nurturing environment.  Over the years, we have also cultivated a community of theater-goers who appreciate the excitement and discovery of new plays and musicals and who can provide a knowledgeable response to this evolving work,” said PTC’s Producing Artistic Director Sara Garonzik.  “[email protected] fosters this connection in ways that are not only helpful to the playwrights who are present each night but fun and energizing for the audience as well.”

[email protected] is an outgrowth of PTC’s annual STAGES program, established in 1986, which also includes commissions, workshops and the Terrence McNally New Play Award.  Through STAGES, PTC has developed 90 plays, half of which have gone on to production or publication.  Readings that have made it on to the PTC mainstage include the world premieres of Jeffrey Hatcher’s A Picasso and Bruce Graham’s According to Goldman.  Two of PTC’s commissions have been After Ashley by Gina Gionfriddo which premiered at Humana and Bruce Norris’ The Pain and the Itch which premiered at Steppenwolf. On the mainstage PTC has produced 38 new plays and musicals.  Recent world premieres include Red Hot Patriot by Margaret Engel and Allison Engel, Terrence McNally’s Golden Age, and Bill Irwin’s The Happiness Lecture.

“Due to the generosity of the Knight and Wyncote Foundations we’ve been able to expand the Festival this year and support new work at every level of development, from work by young people still in school to work by emerging and established professionals currently practicing in the field,” said Festival Director Jacqueline Goldfinger. “I don’t think there’s another Festival like it in the country.”

The Festival begins with the PTC Education Department’s Philly Reality program on February 29.

On Monday, March 5 the professional events begin with a reading of Hope and Gravity by local playwright Michael Hollinger.  Directed by Aaron Posner, Hope & Gravity is a new comedy consisting of eight interconnected short plays, bookended by stories in an elevator. Intersecting lives collide to create a narrative on the highs and lows of the human experience.

The Terrence McNally Award presentation will also be held on Monday, March 5 immediately prior to the reading of Hope & Gravity. The reading will be followed by a Champagne Reception in celebration of new work.

Michael Hollinger is the author of Ghost-Writer, Opus, Tooth and Claw, Red Herring, Incorruptible, An Empty Plate in the Cafe Du Grand Boeuf, and Tiny Island, all of which premiered at Arden Theatre Company and have enjoyed numerous productions around the country, in New York City, and abroad.  His new musical A Wonderful Noise (co-authored with Vance Lehmkuhl) has received the Frederick Loewe Award for Musical Theatre, the “In the Spirit of America” Award from the Barbara Barondess MacLean Foundation, and a developmental production at Creede Repertory Theatre.  His new translation/co-adaptation (with Aaron Posner) of Cyrano De Bergerac premiered in 2011 at the Folger Theatre in Washington, D.C.  Other awards include a Harold & Mimi Steinberg New Play Citation from the American Theatre Critics Association, a Roger L. Stevens Award from the Kennedy Center’s Fund for New American Plays, a Mid-Atlantic Emmy Award, an Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award, the F. Otto Haas Award for an Emerging Theatre Artist, two Barrymore Awards for Outstanding New Play, a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award, nominations for Lucille Lortel and John Gassner Awards, and fellowships from the Independence Foundation, Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, and Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

Next up is a reading of The Nether by Jennifer Haley on Wednesday, March 7.  A sci-fi look into the future, The Nether is a world where reality meshes with the vast, virtual world, and registered adults can live out any fantasy they desire.  When a young cyber detective investigates a beautiful realm where those fantasies involve crimes against children, she interrogates a charismatic man who goes by the name of Papa.  But as the two discover they are linked by more than the case, their battle of wills blows up beyond questions of morality to those of essence, longing, and the nature of existence itself.  The Nether will be directed by Steve Cosson.

Jennifer Haley’s plays include Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom, which premiered at the Actors Theatre of Louisville 2008 Humana Festival and continues to see productions nation-wide, and Breadcrumbs, which premiered at the 2010 Contemporary American Theatre Festival and was selected as a “Highlight of 2011 in LA Theatre” by the LA Stage Times for its production at Theater 150 in Ojai, CA.  The Nether was work-shopped at the 2011 O’Neill National Playwrights Conference and the Lark Play Development Center.  Her work has also been seen at Summer Play Festival in New York, PlayPenn Playwrights Conference in Philadelphia, Lincoln Center Director’s Lab, Geva Theatre in Rochester, Theatre at Boston Court in Pasadena, and the Page 73 Productions Summer Residency at Yale University.

Thursday, March 8 will see a special staged reading presentation of Stars of David directed by Gordon Greenberg.  Based on Abigail Pogrebin’s eponymous essay collection of interviews, Stars of David chronicles how prominent Jewish figures perceive their faith both in their professions and in their personal lives. Some of the interviewees to be included in this musical adaptation are such notable names as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Wendy Wasserstein, Norman Lear, Edgar Bronfman, Tony Kushner, Diane von Furstenberg, and Dustin Hoffman, just to list a few. Charles Busch (The Tale Of The Allergist’s Wife), serves as librettist to adapt the interviews with such composers and lyricists as Tom Kitt  (Next To Normal), Marvin Hamilsch (A Chorus Line), William Finn (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee), Sheldon Harnick (Fiddler on the Roof, The Apple Tree),  Jeanine Tesori (Caroline, Or Change), Michael Friedman (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson), Scott Frankel & Michael Korie (Grey Gardens) among others.

Samuel Hunter’s play When You’re Here receives a reading directed by Kent Nicholson on Friday, March 9.  In When You’re Here, Olive Garden’s Famiglia Week is on the brink of extinction in Pocatello, Idaho, where corporate culture has entirely co-opted mainstream culture.  As two families try to reconcile past and present, they search for a new definition of home, a new way to relate to the world – and to each other.

Samuel D. Hunter’s recent plays include A Bright New Boise, winner of the 2011 OBIE award for playwriting and the 2011 Drama Desk Nomination for Best Play; The Whale, recently produced this winter at Denver Center and originally developed in Philadelphia at PlayPenn; Jack’s Precious Moment, produced at Page 73 Productions at 59E59; Five Genocides , produced at Clubbed Thumb at the Ohio Theater; Norway, produced by Phoenix Theatre of Indianapolis and Boise Contemporary Theater; and I Am Montana, produced at Arcola Theatre in London and Mortar Theater in Chicago.  He has active commissions from Manhattan Theatre Club/Sloan, Seattle Rep, South Coast Rep, and Boise Contemporary Theater. His plays have been developed at the O’Neill Playwrights Conference, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, PlayPenn, Ojai Playwrights Conference, the Lark Playwrights Workshop, Juilliard School, LAByrinth, Rattlestick, Seven Devils Playwrights Conference, and 24Seven Lab.  He is the recipient of the 2011 Sky Cooper Prize, 2008-2009 PONY Fellowship from the Lark Play Development Center, and two Lincoln Center Le Compte du Nuoy Awards.

                The weekend continues with Detroit ’67 by Dominique Morisseau, directed by Patricia McGregor, on Saturday, March 10Detroit ’67 is the first of a three-play cycle focusing on Morisseau’s hometown.  Set in 1967, Detroit, the play tells the story of Chelle and her brother Lank who are making ends meet by turning their basement into an after-hours joint. Always at odds, they fight over the future of the family trade. But when a mysterious white woman finds her way into their care and a string of raids increases police brutality around the city, the siblings become divided over much more than business. Suddenly, they find themselves caught in the middle of the ‘67 riots.

Dominique Morisseau is a member of the 2011 Public Theater Emerging Writer’s Group, the Women’s Project Playwrights Lab, and a 2011-2012 Lark Playwrights Workshop fellow.   Detroit ’67, was developed at The Public Theater and was a finalist for the 2011 O’Neill National Playwrights Conference.  The second play in the three-part series, Paradise Blue, was developed June 2011 at the Voice and Vision Retreat/Bard.  Her play, Follow Me To Nellie’s, was developed at the 2010 O’Neill National Playwrights Conference and produced at Premiere Stages in July 2011.  Her one-act plays have been produced at Fire This Time Festival, Cherry Lane Studio/Discovery and Heritage Series, Center Stage, and American Theatre of Harlem.   She is a Jane Chambers Playwriting Award Honoree, a two-time NAACP Image Award recipient, a nominee for the Wendy Wasserstein Playwriting Prize, and a runner-up for the 2011 Princess Grace Award.

[email protected] concludes on Sunday, March 11 with [email protected], an evening of  ten-minute plays by local playwrights: The Narcoleptic Pillow Fight by Alex Dremann; Rochambeau by Sarah Mantell; Riot Grrrls Reunion by Darin J. Dunston; Cliff-Diving by David S. White; Backfire by David Lee White; Lannie’s Lament by Jacqueline Goldfinger; Wet by P. Seth Bauer; and Alterations by Quinn D. Eli.  All eight short plays will be directed by David O’Connor. There will be a Closing Party immediately following the reading featuring the West Philadelphia Orchestra, an array of local brews, and more.

Preceding [email protected] will be feature two performances of Philly Reality on Wednesday, February 29 and Thursday, March 1Philly Reality is a unique multi-school student performance program that is part of PTC’s Barrymore Award-winning education program Drama Contact.  In addition to Philly Reality, Drama Contact enhances the curriculum of theater arts instruction within public schools by offering in-school and at-the-theater workshops, residencies, student matinees, and weekend and summer programs.

Founded in 1974, Philadelphia Theatre Company is a leading regional theater company whose mission is to produce, develop and present entertaining and imaginative contemporary theater focused on the American experience that both ignites the intellect and touches the soul.  By developing new work through commissions, readings and workshops PTC generates projects that have a national impact and reach broad regional audiences.  Under the leadership of PTC’s Producing Artistic Director Sara Garonzik since 1982 and Managing Director Shira Beckerman, new to the company as of August 2011, PTC supports the work of a growing body of diverse dramatists and takes pride in being a home to many nationally recognized artists who have participated in more than 140 world and Philadelphia premieres.  PTC has received 46 Barrymore Awards and 159 nominations.  In October 2007, PTC moved into a home of its own, the Suzanne Roberts Theatre on Center City Philadelphia’s Avenue of the Arts, solidifying the Company’s status as a major player on the American theater scene.

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