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Release date:
July 23, 2001
Contact: Deb Hammacher, Assistant Director, 404-727-0644, or

Theater Emory Hosts Readings For 2002 Olympic Arts Festival

Theater Emory 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.

In connection with the Pioneer Theatre Company in Salt Lake City and the Olympic Arts Festival of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, Theater Emory will continue the commissioning and development process begun in Salt Lake City last winter. Kopit and Schenkkan, dramaturg and project director David Kranes, and Pioneer Theatre Company 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 are expected to 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," says Murphy. "They believe that having that kind of input and feedback in the room is improving the play." Murphy and Emory theater professor/actor Tim McDonough were in Salt Lake City in March for two weeks of workshops on the Salt Lake City Olympic Play Commission Project, and both playwrights subsequently approached Murphy independently asking to continue 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. These workshops involve building stories about contemporary Americans. The process is less about art with a capital A and more about craft," says Murphy.

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 Ibsen's "Ghosts" (which opened Theater Emory's Ibsen festival), the book for the musical "Phantom," the book for the musical "Nine" (1982 Tony Award for best musical), and the book for "High Society." Kopit also has been a writer for the television mini-series "Hands of a Stranger," "Phantom of the Opera" and "In a Child's Name" and the television series "Roswell."

Schenkkan is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Broadway's "The Kentucky Cycle." His additional full-length plays are "Final Passages" (published by the Theater Communications Group's "Plays in Process" series); "Tachinoki"; "Heaven on Earth" and "Handler" (premiered at Actor's Express in Atlanta in January 2000 following development at Theater Emory). His one-act plays include "The Survivalist" (premiered at the Humana Festival and won "Best of the Fringe" at the Edinburgh Festival); and the elements of "The Kentucky Cycle," including "Tall Tales" that received the Playwright's Forum Award.

"The idea that we can use the Olympic Winter Games as a forum to support the creation of new theatrical work, which explores the myths of the American West is, in essence, the legacy of the Olympic Arts Festival," says Raymond T. Grant, director of the Olympic Arts Festival, that will run Feb. 1-March 16, 2002. "A required part of the games, the Olympic Arts Festival will celebrate Utah and its heritage, embrace the West and its cultures and highlight America's contributions to the arts."


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