Actors Theatre of Louisville Artistic Director Les Waters and Managing Director Kevin E. Moore are delighted to announce the lineup for the 42nd Humana Festival of New American Plays. A cultural highlight for theatre lovers, artists and producers across the country, the Humana Festival runs February 28 through April 8, 2018.
This year’s Festival program will feature six world premieres, including (in order of opening; for more information on individual plays, see below):
“The Humana Festival of New American Plays is a leading force in today’s theatre. Our writers explore and define the world that we all share,” said Les Waters. “I am very proud that Actors Theatre’s passion and dedication to artistic risk and courage creates a space for these voices to be heard.”
Kevin E. Moore added, “The Humana Festival has long been a vital part of the American theatre landscape. Our partnership with the Humana Foundation is unparalleled, and their nearly four-decade-long commitment ensures that theatre continues to thrive in this country and around the globe. The 2017 Festival was attended by more than 36,000 people, with visitors from 39 states and 57 colleges and universities represented in the audience. By investing in the future of American theatre, Actors Theatre makes a significant impact not only on the national theatre canon, but also on the local economic prosperity and cultural vibrancy of Louisville.”
For over four decades, Actors Theatre of Louisville has been a driving force in new play development, introducing more than 450 plays into the American theatre repertoire and representing the work of more than 400 playwrights and ensembles. The internationally acclaimed Humana Festival is recognized as a crucial incubator for new work and a launching pad for myriad subsequent productions around the country and the world. Plays recently commissioned and/or produced by Actors Theatre—such as Lucas Hnath’s The Christians, Jen Silverman’s The Roommate and Colman Domingo’s Dot—have been seen by audiences far and wide.
This year’s lineup of plays will be performed in rotating repertory in three theatres located in Actors Theatre’s downtown Louisville complex: the 633-seat Pamela Brown Auditorium, 318-seat Bingham Theatre and 159-seat Victor Jory Theatre. The 2018 Humana Festival schedule also offers a weekend of enrichment events for college students, and features special weekend packages for theatre lovers and practitioners alike. These weekends are packed with discussions, networking opportunities and parties, making Louisville a vibrant destination for American theatre this spring. A full list of the weekend package offerings is included in the listings section below.
Actors Theatre celebrates the 42nd Humana Festival with underwriter the Humana Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Humana, Inc. Additional support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust.
Detailed information about each of the plays in the 42nd Humana Festival of New American Plays follows:
God Said This
by Leah Nanako Winkler
directed by Morgan Gould
February 28 – April 8
in the Bingham Theatre
With her mom undergoing chemotherapy, New York transplant Hiro returns home to Lexington, Kentucky after years away. Sophie, her born-again Christian sister, fights to maintain her faith amid adversity. James, their recovering alcoholic father, wants to repair his fractured relationship with his daughters, but redemption isn’t easy. And John, an old classmate and single dad, worries about his legacy. Wry and bittersweet, God Said This is a portrait of five people confronting mortality in very different ways—and unexpectedly finding that their struggles bring them together.
Leah Nanako Winkler is from Kamakura, Japan and Lexington, Kentucky. Her plays include Kentucky (2015 Kilroys List; world premiere: Ensemble Studio Theatre/Page 73/Radio Drama Network; West Coast premiere: East West Players), Two Mile Hollow (2017 Kilroys List; simultaneous world premiere: Artists at Play, Mixed Blood Theatre/Mu Performing Arts, First Floor Theater and Ferocious Lotus Theatre Company), and more. Publications: Samuel French and Dramatists Play Service. Winkler received the first annual Mark O’Donnell Prize from The Actors Fund and Playwrights Horizons, and a 2017 Audible commission for emerging playwrights. She is currently a Time Warner Fellow at WP Theater, a member of the Dorothy Strelsin New American Writers Group at Primary Stages and Ma-Yi Theater Company’s Writers Lab, and is an alumna of Youngblood at Ensemble Studio Theatre.
by Deborah Stein
directed by Meredith McDonough
March 6 – April 8
in the Pamela Brown Auditorium
part of the Brown-Forman Series
Days after 9/11, the few surviving employees of an investment firm based near the top of the Twin Towers gather in a New Jersey warehouse. Shell-shocked and grief-stricken, they work around the clock to reconstruct what’s left of their company with determination, pen and paper, and a temp who just wants to help. But as they struggle to recoup their losses, they wonder: what does getting “back to normal” really mean?
Deborah Stein is a playwright, director and collaborative theatre maker. Previous work at Actors Theatre includes Fissures (lost and found) and HEIST! (both 2010 Humana Festival) and Brink! (2009 Humana Festival). With Suli Holum, she is co-artistic director of Stein | Holum Projects, where she wrote and co-directed The Wholehearted (ArtsEmerson commission; world premiere at Center Theatre Group and La Jolla Playhouse) and Chimera (HARP commission; Under the Radar 2012; UK Premiere at The Gate in London, 2014). Other collaborations include six plays with Pig Iron Theatre Company, and most recently directing Keith Wallace’s The Bitter Game for La Jolla Playhouse and Under the Radar 2017. Her work has also been produced and developed by Z Space, Playwrights Horizons, Clubbed Thumb, The Theatre @ Boston Court, Live Girls! Theater and Workhaus Collective. Awards include a Bush Artist Fellowship, two Jerome Fellowships and a McKnight Advancement Grant. An alumna of New Dramatists, she received her M.F.A. from Brown, where she studied with Paula Vogel. Originally from Queens, New York, she currently lives in Los Angeles and teaches at the University of California San Diego.
Do You Feel Anger?
by Mara Nelson-Greenberg
directed by Margot Bordelon
March 9 – April 8
in the Bingham Theatre
Sofia was recently hired as an empathy coach at a debt collection agency—and clearly, she has her work cut out for her. These employees can barely identify what an emotion is, much less practice deep, radical compassion for others. And while they painstakingly stumble towards enlightenment, someone keeps mugging Eva in the kitchen. An outrageous comedy about the absurdity—and the danger—of a world where some people’s feelings matter more than others’.
Mara Nelson-Greenberg’s work has been developed at Playwrights Horizons, Clubbed Thumb, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Dixon Place, Theatre Intime and WildWind Performance Lab, among others. She is a member of Youngblood at Ensemble Studio Theatre, a New Georges Affiliated Artist and an alumna of Clubbed Thumb’s Early Career Writers’ Group. She co-wrote the web series End Times Girls Club, which was produced by Broadway Video and Above Average and released in March of 2016. She received her B.A. from Princeton University and is currently pursuing an M.F.A. at the University of California San Diego under Naomi Iizuka.
Evocation to Visible Appearance
by Mark Schultz
directed by Les Waters
commissioned by Actors Theatre of Louisville
March 16 – April 8
in the Pamela Brown Auditorium
part of the Brown-Forman Series
You wanna know what the future looks like? Samantha, 17 and possibly pregnant, longs for solid ground—but she’s haunted by the sense that nothing will last. Her college-bound boyfriend wants to go sing on The Voice, her dad’s asleep on the couch, and her older sister’s in treatment. When Sam befriends a tattooed musician, has she found someone who understands this fallen world? With black humor and black metal, this gripping new play gives form to a gathering darkness.
Mark Schultz is a resident playwright at New Dramatists and a member of Rising Phoenix Repertory. His plays include The Blackest Shore, The Gingerbread House, Ceremony, Deathbed, Gift and Everything Will Be Different: A Brief History of Helen of Troy. His work has been performed or developed by Soho Rep, Playwrights Horizons, Rising Phoenix Repertory, MCC Theater, The Catastrophic Theatre, Birmingham Repertory Theatre (UK), Actors Touring Company (UK) and Tiyatro Yan Etki (Turkey). He has received the Oppenheimer Award and the Kesselring Prize, commissions from MTC/Sloan, Playwrights Horizons, Actors Theatre of Louisville and The Exchange, and was selected for a Royal Court Residency. Schultz holds an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School, a diploma from Berkeley Divinity School, a certificate from the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and an M.F.A. in playwriting from Columbia University.
we, the invisibles
by Susan Soon He Stanton
directed by Dámaso Rodríguez
March 23 – April 8
in the Victor Jory Theatre
Stirred by a controversial case in which a West African maid’s accusation against a powerful man is dismissed, Susan, a playwright working a survival job at a luxury hotel, starts interviewing fellow employees from around the world. She feels compelled to give voice to other hotel workers’ rarely heard stories—but as her investigation deepens, this documentary project becomes an unexpectedly personal journey. Funny, poignant, and brutally honest, we, the invisibles explores the complicated relationship between the movers and shakers and the people who change their sheets.
Susan Soon He Stanton’s plays include Today Is My Birthday (Page 73), Takarazuka!!! (Clubbed Thumb and East West Players), Cygnus (WP Theater Lab), Solstice Party! (Live Source Theatre Group), and The Things Are Against Us (Washington Ensemble Theatre). She is a two-time Sundance Theatre Lab Resident Playwright, and she was recently awarded the inaugural Venturous Playwright Fellowship at The Lark, as well as the Leah Ryan Prize. Her work has been included on The Kilroys List from 2015-2017, and she is currently under commission at Yale Repertory Theatre, South Coast Repertory and Ensemble Studio Theatre. Writing groups past and present include Page 73’s Interstate 73, The Public Theater’s Emerging Writers Group, and the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab, among others. She writes for Succession (HBO). She received an M.F.A. in playwriting from Yale School of Drama and a B.F.A. from New York University.
You Across from Me
by Jaclyn Backhaus, Dipika Guha, Brian Otaño and Jason Gray Platt
directed by Jessica Fisch
performed by the actors of the 2017-2018 Professional Training Company
commissioned by Actors Theatre of Louisville
March 23 – April 8
in the Bingham Theatre
We gather at tables on good days and bad, for ordinary rituals and once-in-a-lifetime encounters. But in polarizing times, what does it really mean to come to the table? Does it bring us together, or reveal just how far apart we truly are? With electric wit and fierce imagination, four writers explore this surprisingly complicated act, and the many ways we connect, confront and compromise.
Jaclyn Backhaus is a playwright and co-founder of Fresh Ground Pepper. Her play Men on Boats (Clubbed Thumb’s Summerworks, Playwrights Horizons) was a New York Times Critic’s Pick and is published by Dramatists Play Service. Other works include Folk Wandering (Pipeline Theatre Company, upcoming), People Doing Math Live! (Under the Radar Festival’s INCOMING! series at The Public Theater), The Incredible Fox Sisters (Live Source Theatre Group) and You on the Moors Now (Theater Reconstruction Ensemble, The Hypocrites). Backhaus has received commissions from Playwrights Horizons, Manhattan Theatre Club, Ensemble Studio Theatre and Ars Nova, and was the 2016 Tow Foundation Playwright-in-Residence at Clubbed Thumb. She is currently in residence at Lincoln Center Theater. She received her B.F.A. from New York University and hails from Phoenix, Arizona.
Dipika Guha was raised in India, England and Russia. Her plays include Yoga Play (South Coast Repertory, The Kilroys List 2017), The Art of Gaman (The Ground Floor at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, The Kilroys List 2016, Relentless Award semifinalist) and Mechanics of Love (Crowded Fire Theater). She is under commission at South Coast Repertory, the McCarter Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Club, Barrington Stage Company, American Conservatory Theater/Z Space and Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Play On! project (The Merry Wives of Windsor). Her play Azaan premiered at Oregon Symphony this fall. Guha received her M.F.A. from Yale School of Drama, studying under Paula Vogel, and is a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University. She currently writes for the series American Gods on Starz.
Brian Otaño grew up in New York City, where he worked as a playwright and a scenic artist at the Metropolitan Opera before moving to Los Angeles. His plays include Tara, Zero Feet Away, The Ocean at Your Door, What We Told the Neighbors and Between the Sandbar and the Shore. His work has been performed, developed and workshopped with New York Theatre Workshop, Roundabout Theatre Company, Page 73, Ars Nova, Atlantic Theater Company, New Dramatists, INTAR, The Amoralists, The Parsnip Ship, Lark Play Development Center, IAMA Theatre Company (L.A.) and Celebration Theatre (L.A.). Residencies & Fellowships: New Dramatists Van Lier Playwriting Fellowship, Interstate 73, New York Theatre Workshop 2050 Fellowship, Ars Nova’s Play Group and SPACE on Ryder Farm. Education: Otaño received his B.F.A. in dramatic writing from SUNY Purchase.
Jason Gray Platt’s work has been produced and developed around the country by American Repertory Theater, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Denver Center Theatre Company, The Flea Theater, Round House Theatre, TheatreWorks, The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, The Playwrights Realm, Prelude NYC, Page 73 Productions and Red Bull Theater, and through residencies at The MacDowell Colony and Yaddo. He received a Helen Hayes Nomination for The Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play in 2013 and was the runner-up for the 2007 Princess Grace Award in Playwriting. Originally from Arizona, Platt now lives in Los Angeles. He is a Core Writer at the Playwrights’ Center and a member of Woodshed Collective. He received his B.A. from Vassar College and his M.F.A. from Columbia University.
You Across from Me is supported in part by The Roy Cockrum Foundation.
About the Professional Training Company
Now in its 46th year, the Professional Training Company (PTC) is the cornerstone of Actors Theatre of Louisville’s commitment to education. One of the nation’s oldest pre-professional training programs, the PTC is a one-of-a-kind immersive program designed to transition recent college graduates into careers by teaching the business and the art of being a theatre professional. Members of the Company work directly with Actors Theatre artistic and administrative leaders, as well as visiting guest artists, to receive hands-on training in their respective fields. The PTC is a diverse community comprised of 42 talented individuals who are the next generation of American theatre.
Humana Festival Kickoff
Thursday, February 22, 2018 from 5:30 – 8 p.m.
Join Actors Theatre for a fun celebration to bring in the Festival with much-deserved fanfare! This event is free, but ticketed.
Saturday, March 31, 2018 at 10 p.m.
Join us at this free, casual gathering, where you’ll meet local theatre enthusiasts and welcome the theatre industry’s finest.
Saturday, April 7, 2018 at 10 p.m.
Come and help us celebrate the closing weekend of the Humana Festival! An evening of food, drink and entertainment throughout Actors Theatre’s lobbies, the Bash is an opportunity for patrons, producers, artists, critics, Actors alumni and more to send off this memorable season in style!
Panel conversations and keynote speakers will be announced at a later date.
Festival Ticket Packages will be on sale beginning November 16, 2017 and are available for the following weekends, enabling you to see a variety of Humana Festival plays and access special events: March 16-18, March 23-25, March 30-April 1, and April 5-8, 2018. Packages are available for theatre lovers and practitioners on all Festival weekends, and for college students and professors the weekend of March 23-25, 2018
Actors Theatre’s Season Ticket Holders can access single tickets and package add-ons during a special pre-sale beginning on Wednesday, November 15, 2017.
Single ticket prices start at $25, and tickets will be on sale beginning January 3, 2018. For more information or to purchase Humana Festival weekend packages, visit ActorsTheatre.org or call 502.584.1205.