September 4, 2001
Plays in training for '02 Olympics
By Deb Hammacher
Theater Emory (TE) will host readings Sept. 89 of two plays under
development for the Salt Lake City Olympic Play Commission Project. The
works are Arthur Kopits The Discovery of America, based on
the Spanish journals of explorer Cabeza de Vaca, and Robert Schenkkans
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 citys Pioneer Theatre Company and
the Olympic Arts Festival (Feb. 1March 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. 310 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 its 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
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
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 Americas 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, Mammas
Hung You in the Closet and Im Feelin So Sad, Indians
(Tony Award-nominee), Wings (Tony nominee), End of the World
with Symposium to Follow, a new translation of Henrik Ibsens
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 Actors 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.