Theatre in the Raw: The Lucille Lortel Festival of New Plays
(Posted on February 27, 2012)
Thursday-Sunday, March 1-4, 2012
PepsiCo Theatre, Fairfield University
The play's the thing at Fairfield University these days. "Theatre in the Raw: The Lucille Lortel Festival of New Plays," consisting of three original one-act plays commissioned by Theatre Fairfield and underwritten by a bequest from the Estate of Lucille Lortel, will have their world premier performances March 1-4, 2012, at Fairfield University's PepsiCo Theatre. Tickets are $12, general admission, $6 seniors and University staff, $5 students. Tickets are available through the Quick Center box office. Call (203) 254-4010.
The plays, which have been in various stages of development and refinement since the fall, were first presented as staged readings that were critiqued in front of an invitation-only audience in early December. The plays consist of "A Brief History of America" written by Dipika Guha and directed by Jesse Jou, "Minerva's Mirror" written by David Meth and directed by Jeff Stanley, and "Safeguard" written by Andra Vebell and directed by Jackob G. Hofmann. All three one-acts will be presented in full production at each performance by Theatre Fairfield, the production wing of Fairfield University's Theatre Program in the Department of Visual and Performing Arts. Performances take place at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, March 1-3, 2012; and 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, March 3 and 4, 2012. "Theatre in the Raw" is being held in conjunction with the exhibition "Bravo! A Century of Theatre in Fairfield County," currently on view at the Fairfield Museum & History Center, which celebrates the life and work of Ms. Lortel.
Lucille Lortel (1900-1999), a former actress and wealthy patron of the arts, converted a barn on her Westport, CT, estate into a theatre that seated 150 people. Founding the White Barn in 1947 as a laboratory for developing new plays that dared to be different from the usual commercial fare, she launched a home for innovation that would change the course of 20th-century theatre.
'Theatre in the Raw' is a brand new initiative for Theatre Fairfield based on the concurrent timing of the 'Bravo!' exhibition," said Dr. Martha S. LoMonaco, Professor of Theatre and guest curator of the "Bravo" exhibition. "When Lucille Lortel died in 1999, the University received a bequest from her Estate to mount festivals of professional new plays. We weren't in a position to take on such a project until now. This is precisely the work Lucille Lortel did in life - she was the foremost producer of new plays and playwrights in the U.S. in the 20th century, and she was all about nurturing new work via the staged reading process. We chose and commissioned three writers to create pieces expressly for us in our own PepsiCo 'barn theatre.'"
The process began last summer, when Fairfield University's Theatre Department held a competitive audition, advertising widely for playwrights to submit one-act plays along with their professional resumes and a letter of intent. "It was important to us that all of the playwrights either lived in Connecticut or had strong Connecticut affiliations," said Dr. LoMonaco, who noted that all of the plays' directors were chosen in a similar manner. "All are theatre professionals and became integrally involved in the development of these new plays," she said.
David Meth, from Westport, CT, describes his play "Minerva's Mirror" as "a drama about the realities four college students face when their secrets are exposed and they must confront their friends with private hopes and public disappointments that they didn't quite expect to be revealed." Andra Vebell, also from Westport, CT, explains "Safeguard" as: "The truth can be messy, inconvenient and painful. Sometimes it's just easier to live with a lie. "Safeguard" is the story of three characters and the stories they tell themselves to avoid the pain of what they know to be true." Dipika Guha's "A Brief History of America" is "a snapshot into the lives of two characters, Roberto and Sarah, as they search for home and love," said the playwright. "The play's title alludes to the notion that a nations' history is as contained in the domestic lives of individuals as it is in grand national narratives," continued Ms. Guha, who lives in New Haven, CT. "I wrote the play while out on a residency in Wyoming. It was a visceral response to the rural landscape around me; that stunning isolation in the heart of America."
"Working with the Fairfield University theater department faculty and students, as well as the other playwrights and directors has been a great experience," noted David Meth. "The talkback, as playwrights expect, comes with compliments as well as criticism and sometimes complaints. However, playwrights take away from the experience what is useful and continue to develop the play and our craft. Watching my director, Jeff Stanley, work with the students provides valuable insight into what is natural for the play, and the collaboration is both a way to teach the students the nature and nuance of language, as well as complex character development, in order to move the story forward. The cast has been outstanding in every way, so the whole process has been excellent and quite enjoyable."
Andra Vebell describes her Theatre in the Raw experience as "truly wonderful - a supportive and expedient development process, an incredible director, the support of an entire theatre department behind us, and wonderfully talented and enthusiastic actors from the Fairfield University community."
Playwright Dipika Guha also teaches a class in Playwriting at Fairfield University this semester.
"This has been a wonderful opportunity to engage with these talented students in many capacities," she noted. "It's also a lovely way to both 'show' and 'tell' how the craft and theory of playwriting works together. I'm thrilled that I can share this work with the students and I look forward to seeing their work as theatre artists and playwrights in the years to come." She added, "I have worked with brilliant new play director Jesse Jou several times now and wanted the play to be a response to Jesse's concerns, too, so I asked him to send me a list of 'elements' that I could respond to. His list included, 'everyman', 'a new society' and 'the most banal thing two people can talk about is the most radical'. And the result was this play."
All three of the playwrights chosen have extensive theatre writing experience. Dipika Guha is a recipient of the Cole Porter Prize in Playwriting at Yale University and has an MFA in Playwriting from the Yale School of Drama. She was a Frank Knox Fellow of Playwriting at Harvard University. Her short plays include Habeas Corpus, A Brief History of America, In the Red White and Blue (finalist, Heideman Award), and An American Dream (T.S Eliot Award). Her other plays include The Betrothed (Wellfleet Harbour Actor's Theatre), Passing (Yale Cabaret and Yale School of Drama), and The State of Affairs (Yale School of Drama), and The Rules (supported by Old Vic New Voices).
David Meth was a finalist at Stageworks/Hudson's Play by Play Festival (NY), Claire Donaldson Short Play Festival (SD), and Mercy Plays (NYC). His work has appeared in front of audiences at Ensemble Studio Theatre (NYC), Pan Asian Rep., (NYC), Lone Star Ensemble (LA), North Park Playwrights Festival (San Diego, CA), Boston Theater Marathon (MA), Ball Performing Arts Center (Waco, TX), Theatre Artists Workshop (Westport, CT), Westport Community Theatre (Westport, CT), Darien Players (CT), and many others.
Andra Vebell's plays include Touch The Moon (semi-finalist, Strawberry One Act Festival and Ensemble Studio Theatre), Sweat Lodge (The Barrow Group Theatre, NYC), The Last Godfather (Incoming Tide), What They Know (Fairfield Theatre), Before Rise and La Petite Mort (Last Frontier Theatre, Alaska). Prints of Ducks and Dogs will be produced by The Barrow Group Theatre, March 2012. She has written a short film, a web series (The Street) and a feature-length screenplay on a famous singer/songwriter. She graduated from Cornell University.
"Theatre Fairfield's mission is to provide a well-rounded, fully participatory theatre experience for the University community," said Dr. LoMonaco. "The Theatre Program of the Department of Visual and Performing Arts offers comprehensive theatre education in both major and minor programs. All practical and theoretical aspects of theatre are covered through coursework and active participation in Theatre Fairfield."
Tickets are available through the Quick Center Box Office: (203) 254-4010, or toll-free 1-877-ARTS-396 (1-877-278-7396). Tickets can also be purchased online at http://www.fairfield.edu/quick.
The PepsiCo Theatre is located on the campus of Fairfield University at 1073 North Benson Road in Fairfield, Connecticut. Free, secure parking is available. Fairfield University is located off exit 22 of Interstate-95. For further information and directions, call (203) 254-4010 or 1-877-278-7396.
Vol. 44, No. 209