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September 4, 2001

Plays in training for '02 Olympics

By Deb Hammacher


Theater Emory (TE) will host readings Sept. 8–9 of two plays under development for the Salt Lake City Olympic Play Commission Project. The works are Arthur Kopit’s The Discovery of America, based on the Spanish journals of explorer Cabeza de Vaca, 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.

TE is continuing a development process that began last winter in Salt Lake City in connection with the city’s Pioneer Theatre Company and the Olympic Arts Festival (Feb. 1–March 16, 2002) of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. Kopit and Schenkkan, dramaturg and project director David Kranes, and Pioneer managing director Christopher Lino will be in residence at Emory Sept. 3–10 to work with Theater Emory Producing Artistic Director Vincent Murphy and an ensemble of accomplished actors. The casts include Tom Key, Carolyn Cook, Tim McDonough, Bart Hansard, Chris Kayser, Scott Higgs, Gary Yates and John Ammerman.

“I think it’s fantastic that two challenging, highly respected playwrights are embracing collaboration,” Murphy said. “They believe that having that kind of input and feedback in the room is improving the play.”

Murphy and theater professor/actor Tim McDonough were in Salt Lake in March for two weeks of workshops on the Salt Lake City Olympic Play Commission Project, and the playwrights approached Murphy independently about continuing the workshop process.

Giving audiences the opportunity to see how plays are created is another benefit of the process, according to Murphy. Students and audiences are invited to all rehearsals to see how the plays are shaped and the role collaboration plays.

“Seeing behind the curtain takes away some of the mystery and gives audiences the pleasure of seeing how the work came to that point and the choices that were made,” Murphy said. “These workshops involve building stories about contemporary Americans. The process is less about ‘art’ with a capital A and more about craft.”

“The idea that we can use the Olympic Winter Games as a forum to support the creation of new theatrical work that explores the myths of the American West is, in essence, the legacy of the Olympic Arts Festival,” said Raymond Grant, arts festival director. “The Olympic Arts Festival will celebrate Utah and its heritage, embrace the West and its cultures and highlight America’s contributions to the arts.”

The plays are two of three commissioned about the American West by the Olympic Arts Festival and Pioneer Theatre Company. The third is a work by Jeffrey Hatcher, author of Three Viewings, Scotland Road, Sockdology and an adaptation of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw.

Kopit is the award-winning author of Y2K (a hit at the 2000 Humana Festival of New American Plays), Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feelin’ So Sad, Indians (Tony Award-nominee), Wings (Tony nominee), End of the World with Symposium to Follow, a new translation of Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts and other plays.

Schenkkan is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Kentucky Cycle. His additional full-length plays are Final Passages, Tachinoki, Heaven on Earth and Handler, which premiered at Actor’s Express in Atlanta in January 2000 following development at Theater Emory.

Both readings are free and open to the public. They will be held in the Mary Gray Munroe Theater in the Dobbs Center. Discovery of America will be read Sept. 8 at 5 p.m., and Miss Hollywood will be read Sept. 9 at 3 p.m. A discussion will follow each reading.


Back to Emory Report September 4, 2001