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July 23, 2001

American stories grab the stage in 2001–02 season

By Deb Hammacher

Theater Emory’s 2001–02 season has a decidedly American feel, with a heavy emphasis on developing new work. The American family, the discovery and exploration of this country, and what it means to be an American youth are themes covered in the upcoming season.

Projects during the season are Naomi Wallace’s The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek, a centerpiece of this fall’s citywide Naomi Wallace Festival; further readings of plays begun last year in Theater Emory’s Brave New Works series; readings of two plays under development for the Salt Lake City Olympic Play Commission Project; a production of Eugene O’Neill’s Ah, Wilderness! and scenes from other plays about the evolution of the American family; and a play development project by and about people age 30 or younger.

“There is an American theme running through the season, although I didn’t intentionally plan it that way,” said Vincent Murphy, artistic producing director of Theater Emory. “This season is largely about modern plays in context. Our mission as a place of adventure and education suggests that we should keep trying to look at the bigger picture, which can’t be done in a single production.

“With Naomi Wallace, thanks to the participation of a dozen local companies, we can look at the entire body of her work. With the American Family Series we look at the entire century’s representation of how the family evolved. With ‘30 Below’ we are helping to develop several new pieces in collaboration with young writers.”

The season kicks off Sept. 8–9 with the Salt Lake City Olympic Play Commission Project readings of Arthur Kopit’s The Discovery of America, about Cabeza de Vaca and the first Europeans to cross the country, and Robert Schenkkan’s The Marriage of Miss Hollywood and King Neptune, set in Hollywood in the 1920s as silent films gave way to talkies.

In connection with the Pioneer Theatre Company in Salt Lake City and the Olympic Arts Festival of the 2002 Salt Lake Olympic Winter Games, Theater Emory will continue the commissioning and development process begun last winter. The casts are expected to include such noted Atlanta actors as Tom Key, Carolyn Cook, Bart Hansard, Chris Kayser and Scott Higgs, as well as Emory’s own John Ammerman and Tim McDonough.

Murphy initiated the Naomi Wallace Festival and will direct Emory’s production of The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek (Oct. 24–Nov. 10), a hit at the 1998 Humana Festival of New American Plays. The two-act, Depression-era play centers on two sexually charged young people seeking to escape the fate of their parents—becoming cogs in the town’s industrial machine—by playing chicken with the
7:10 train.

Recipient of a 1999 “genius” grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Wallace has found great acclaim in England while remaining relatively unknown in her homeland. A native of Kentucky who now divides her time between that state and North Yorkshire, England, Wallace’s work has been praised for its lyricism, sensuality and willingness to tackle difficult

In February 2002, Theater Emory will collaborate with the Emory Center for Myth and Ritual in American Life (MARIAL) on the American Family Series to explore the evolution of the American family with a production of Ah, Wilderness! (Feb. 15–March 2). In addition, scenes will be performed from nine additional plays, each representative of the family from a decade of the 20th century, during the conference of Sloan Foundation-funded MARIAL centers, Feb. 24–27.

Brave New Works readings are scheduled for March 4–9, where works in development include a new Frank Manley play and a Theater Emory commission for Robert O’Hara to adapt Gary Pomerantz’s book Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn.

Finally, an appropriate bookend to the Salt Lake project is “30 Below: A Series of Short Pieces,” (April 6–13) that will feature an ensemble of Emory theater students under the guidance of a new professional company, Out of Hand Theater. The group was founded by five recent Emory theater alumni.

For more information, or to purchase tickets, call the Arts at Emory box office at 404-727-5050 or send e-mail to


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