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Release date:
Updated Oct. 11, 2001
Contact: Deb Hammacher, Assistant Director, 404-727-0644, or dhammac@emory.edu

Atlanta Theater Community Launches Festival of Works By Playwright Naomi Wallace

Seldom has an entire theater community come together around the work of a lesser-known playwright, but 12 theater companies in Atlanta are joining forces to celebrate the work of American playwright Naomi Wallace. Spearheaded by Theater Emory Artistic Producing Director Vincent Murphy, the festival will be anchored by full productions from Theater Emory, Synchronicity Performance Group and PushPush Theater from early October through mid-November.

"I think Naomi Wallace is potentially the most important emerging writer, who happens to also be from the South, yet no one knows who she is," says Murphy. "She is one of the very few writers in this country who will even admit that class is an issue."

The fact that Wallace is a woman is significant, given the difficult history of women playwrights. "I feel like all of us in professional theater should do what we can to support women writers. This is an amazing thing to have 12 companies come together to share with our audiences her special voice. She’s a writer not only for our time, but for all time," says Murphy.

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 writes work that has been praised for its lyricism, sensuality and willingness to tackle difficult subjects. She has received several commissions from the Royal Shakespeare Company, including the acclaimed "Slaughter City" and her work-in-progress, "The Inland Sea" (previously titled "Fugitive Cant").

In America Wallace has received critically-acclaimed productions by significant companies, including the Humana Festival of Actors Theater Louisville, the American Repertory Theater, Long Wharf, and New York Theater Workshop at the Joseph Papp Public Theatre. "In the Heart of America" was published in American Theatre magazine after winning the Susan Smith Blackburn Award. Despite such critical recognition, Wallace’s name is not widely recognized among theater-going audiences.

Critics repeatedly use words such as mysterious, political, sexual, sensual, poetic, muscular and hypnotic to describe Wallace’s storytelling. She freely admits that history excites her and is inextricable from politics in her mind. "Politics is history, and history is what sparks my imagination…Once you see that politics affects our daily lives—our loves, our desires, our needs—that’s terribly exciting," said Wallace in a New York Times Magazine profile.

In addition to the theater events, Emory’s Creative Writing Program hosts a discussion between Wallace and Theater Emory’s Vincent Murphy at 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 22 in the Jones Room of the Robert W. Woodruff Library, 540 Asbury Circle, Emory. Theatrical Outfit’s Tom Key and members of Rogue Planet will read from Wallace’s monologues and poetry. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, call 404-727-4683. Also, a screening of Wallace’s film "Lawn Dogs" will be 4 p.m. Oct. 23 in 205 White Hall, 480 Kilgo Circle, Emory. The film was well received on the festival circuit, but has not been released in the United States.

Three full productions anchor the Naomi Wallace Festival:
Theater Emory will produce "The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek" Oct. 24-Nov. 10. The two-act, circa 1930s 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. Wallace weaves her tale with a thread of humor and mystery in this "lovely, strikingly poetic play" (New York Times). In it, she considers how society continues to blame its ills on the young. $15 (except the Nov. 1 pay-what-you-can performance). Mary Gray Munroe Theater, Dobbs University Center, 605 Asbury Circle, Emory. 404-727-5050
7:30 p.m. Oct. 24, followed by opening reception
8 p.m. Oct. 25, 26, 27, Nov. 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10
3 p.m. Nov. 4 & 10

Synchronicity Performance Group will present "One Flea Spare" Oct. 26-Nov. 19. At the height of the Plague of 1665, "One Flea Spare" introduces us to the Snelgraves, an upper-middle class couple resigned to waiting out their period of quarantine in a few rooms of their elegant home. As the two anxiously await the end of their confinement, their plans are upended by the appearance of a precocious 12-year-old girl and a desperate sailor who invade their private "prison." This thrillingly original work takes a raw, poetic look at what happens when a highly structured society is forced to cope with catastrophic circumstances. $12-15, 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 7 p.m. Sundays. 7 Stages Back Stage Theater, 1105 Euclid Avenue, Little 5 Points, Atlanta. 404-284-1151

PushPush Theater will produce "The Girl Who Fell Through a Hole in Her Jumper" by Naomi Wallace and Bruce McLeod and Wallace’s "In the Heart of America" and "The Bone Gardens." Saturdays, Oct. 19-Nov. 18. In "The Girl Who Fell," a play for both adults and young people, a young girl falls through a hole in her jumper in a fantastical world where nothing is quite what it seems. By confronting tyrants, solving riddles and befriending the downtrodden, she finally gets back home. "In the Heart of America" is an indictment of U.S. military operations in which the confused ghost of a Vietnamese woman searches for the murderer of her three-year-old daughter in a world where, after U.S. action in Panama, Grenada and Operation Desert Storm, parallel post-mortems were taking place. $12-15. 2 p.m. PushPush Theater, 1123 Zonolite Rd., Atlanta. 404-892-7876

Participating companies and their projects are as follows. (For updated information on individual events, go to www.naomiwallacefestival.com or contact the companies directly.)
• Actor’s Express will stage a site-specific production of "The Retreating World," a monologue about the Persian Gulf War from the perspective of an Iraqi soldier. 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 22-Wednesday, Oct. 24. $8 general admission, $5 for Express subscribers. Actor’s Express, King Plow Arts Center, 887 W. Marietta St. NW, Atlanta. Seating will be extremely limited. 404-607-7469 or actorsexpress.com
• Dad’s Garage will present a reading of "The War Boys," an early Wallace play set during the Persian Gulf War. The cast features only three male actors as all the characters. Admission is five canned goods to benefit the Atlanta Community Food Bank. 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26. Dad’s Garage, 280 Elizabeth St. Ste. C-101, Atlanta. 404-523-2144 or www.dadsgarage.com
• Georgia Shakespeare Festival will stage a reading of "The Inland Sea," directed by Richard Garner. In this new commission being developed for the Royal Shakespeare Company, a landscape designer in 1760s England sets out to transform flat fields of the Yorkshire countryside into a hilly oasis for a lord’s estate. The only thing standing in his way is a rural village of common people and their buried secrets in the land around them. Admission is five canned goods to benefit the Atlanta Community Food Bank. 8 p.m. Oct. 28. Conant Performing Arts Center at 4484 Peachtree Road, NE on the Oglethorpe University campus. 404-264-0020
• Horizon Theatre Company and Georgia State University will co-produce a staged reading of "In the Fields of Aceldama," directed by Gayle Austin. The work is a long one-act play set on a Kentucky farm in the late 1960s. It is written in a kind of lyric realism that beautifully captures the strong yet fragile bonds among a 17-year-old girl about to leave home and her mother and father. $5 general admission, free for subscribers. 3 p.m. Oct. 27. Horizon Theatre, 1083 Austin Ave., Little 5 Points, Atlanta. 404-523-1477
• Out of Hand Theater will present readings of "Standard Time," an achingly beautiful monologue about white trash, the taste of money, ignition and speed, and love so strong it blurs identity. 10 p.m. Oct. 26-27 at PushPush Theater after "In the Heart of America," 10:30 p.m. Nov. 1 at Theater Emory’s Mary Gray Munroe Theater after "The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek." 404-522-6176
• Rogue Planet will present the monologues "Fish Story" and "Between the Eyes." "Between the Eyes" will be read at Emory’s Oct. 22 discussion with Wallace about her work. (Free. 8 p.m. Jones Room, Woodruff Library, 540 Asbury Circle, Emory.) Both monologues will be done following the Oct. 27 Horizon Theater/Georgia State presentation of "In the Fields of Aceldema." (See Horizon listing for details.)
• Soul-stice Repertory Ensemble will present staged readings directed by Barbara Cole of "Standard Time" and "Birdy." Suggested donation of $5 in cash or canned food. 3 p.m. Oct. 27, 8 p.m. Oct. 29. Art Farm, 835 Wylie St., Atlanta (one mile from Little 5 Points). For information or directions, go to www.soulstice.org or call 770-591-3036.
• Theatrical Outfit will present Tom Key doing readings of Wallace’s poetry at Emory’s Oct. 22 discussion with Wallace about her work. Free. Jones Room, Woodruff Library, 540 Asbury Circle, Emory.
404-577-5257 ext. 13 or info@theatricaloutfit.org

The Naomi Wallace Festival, anchored by full productions at Theater Emory, Synchronicity Performance Group and PushPush Theater, celebrates the work of an emerging playwright with an important, political voice. American writer Naomi Wallace has found success in England for her stunning writing that blends politics and sexuality yet remains largely unknown in her homeland. She is one of the few playwrights today who is able to go back into history and shine her own particular light on it, allowing contemporary audiences to understand the stakes for people then. We want Atlanta audiences to experience Wallace’s voice—a voice that isn’t afraid to tackle difficult issues, such as class and sexuality—by enjoying her mesmerizing stories woven with language steeped in gripping images, humor and lyricism.

Note to editors and reporters: Photos of Wallace are available by contacting Deb Hammacher. For updated information on individual events, go to www.naomiwallacefestival.com, or contact the companies directly at the numbers above.

 


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