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March 26, 2001

Biennial playwriting event tackles
8 Brave New Works

By Deb Hammacher


Faculty works as well as some by internationally known playwrights fill the bill of the March 25–April 8 Brave New Works (BNW) marathon of new play readings. Theater Emory and its Playwriting Center will host the biennial event, which offers playwrights the chance to hear their works in progress and brainstorm with other writers. An additional new element this year features theater professionals discussing various aspects of working in the field.

Audiences will get to see the completion of a work in development at BNW two years ago, David Kranes’ Beautiful Dreamer, the story of 19th century American songwriter Stephen Foster. Noted playwright Naomi Wallace will have the first reading of Fugitive Cant, her commission for the Royal Shakespeare Company, which also serves as a precursor to a Theater Emory festival of her work in October. Prolific playwright-in-residence Steve Murray will have a reading of his new work, Manna, and first-time playwright Susan Bentley offers a rewrite of a Greek tragedy with Becoming Ariadne.
Faculty projects in BNW, include Somewhere Else, the first part of a trilogy by theater studies associate professor Tim McDonough; 1001 Nights, by Theater Emory producing artistic director Vincent Murphy; and Getting There, a first play by, an incognito member of the college faculty.

One of the most unusual projects is a two-playwright adaptation of journalism professor Gary Pomerantz’s book, Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn, which tells the history of Atlanta through the families of black former mayor Maynard Jackson and white former mayor Ivan Allen Jr.

“Five years ago Dana White in the ILA recommended Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn to me as the best way to learn about Atlanta,” said Murphy, who leads BNW. “Then two years ago Gary joined the journalism faculty here and moved in [the Rich Building], so I stuck my head in and told him I thought his book would make a wonderful play.” Pomerantz agreed, so African American playwright Valetta Anderson and white playwright Peter Hardy were commissioned to jointly tackle the project. Michael Kinghorn, literary manager for the Alliance Theater, is helping to steer the project.

Murphy confessed he’s not sure how the two parts are going to come together, but is excited about the creative process.

“Valetta’s already given me 14 pages of the script, and I didn’t expect us to have anything until week two,” he said.

The schedule of readings and guest artist sessions is as follows, and all take place in the Theater Laboratory, room 117 of the Burlington Road Building, 1804 N. Decatur Rd.:

• March 25, 6:30 p.m.: Becoming Ariadne by Susan Bentley, a rewrite of a Greek tragedy;
• March 25, 8:30 p.m.: Getting There by, a comedy set on an urban subway;
• March 31, 6:30 p.m.: Somewhere Else by Tim McDonough, the first of a three-part series on how we all come from somewhere else;
• March 31, 8:30 p.m.: 1001 Nights by Vincent Murphy, an all-woman, Marx Brothers-style romp that explores the possibility of finding forgiveness from the murderous, sexual rage in the original story;
• April 1, 6:30 p.m.: Beautiful Dreamer by David Kranes, the story of songwriter Stephen Foster;
• April 7, 6:30 p.m.: Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn by Valetta Anderson and Peter Hardy, adapted from Gary Pomerantz’s Atlanta history of the same name;
• April 7, 8:30 p.m.: Manna by Steve Murray, another urban comedy of morals;
• April 8, 6:30 p.m.: Fugitive Cant by Naomi Wallace, a commission for the Royal Shakes-peare Company.

The guest artist sessions cover nearly every aspect of developing new theatrical work for aspiring playwrights. The sessions are 5–5:45 p.m. in the Theater Laboratory, and include:

• March 23
: “Guarding the Playwright’s Vision” featuring Michael Evenden, Michael Kinghorn and Megan Monahan;
• March 25: “Creating as a Group” featuring Synchronicity Performance Group;
• March 30: “Working as a Writer in Atlanta” featuring Jim Grimsley, Steve Murray and Joseph Skibell;
• March 31: “Writing and Directing Your Own Work” featuring Tim McDonough, Vincent Murphy and Robert O’Hara;
• April 1: “Unique Collaborations" featuring Elizabeth Wong, David Kranes and Klimchak;
• April 3: “Playwriting and Recent Work” featuring Rebecca Gilman;
• April 7: “Adapting Literature Into Plays” featuring Peter Hardy, Valetta Anderson and Vincent Murphy.

After coordinating eight playwrights and a company of more than 80 to make BNW happen, including bringing a set designer in from Sweden, the challenge is to find funding for the continuation of the series.

This is the final year of a six-year grant from the college, so Murphy and Acting Producing Director Pat Miller are hunting for new money. Murphy is confident that BNW will go on regardless, but will have to be scaled back substantially if external funding isn’t found.

The event began informally in 1989, Murphy’s first year at Emory, with the development of English Professor Frank Manley’s play, The Evidence. Murphy is proud of the track record.

“We’ve developed 81 plays, and more than half have gone on to professional productions, including abroad and with prestigious domestic companies,” he said.


Back to Emory Report March 26, 2001