More than 50 theaters from the D.C. area will take part in the Kennedy Center’s 15th annual Page-to- Stage New Play Festival, Sept. 3 to Sept. 5, fulfilling the festival’s mission to produce and support new work.
“We’ve got more than ever before, which is really exciting,” says Gregg Henry, the event’s curator, and the person responsible for inviting theatres to present new work at the Kennedy Center festival since its inception. “I think we have Capital Fringe to thank for that and the great young companies that have been springing up.”
This year’s participants include new entries such as the Monumental Theatre Company and The Law Theater Project, joining established regulars including Venus Theatre Company and African-American Collective Theater.
For three days, the Kennedy Center will offer a series of free readings and open rehearsals of plays and musicals being developed by local, regional, and national playwrights, librettists, and composers.
“It’s always an interesting mix,” Henry says. “We’ve made a concerted effort to look at non-traditional company-generated devised pieces and find new ways to give them room and say, ‘Have at it.’”
The companies participating are often utilizing work that they are thinking about producing or circling around what the next step in development of a particular piece is, and over the years, audiences have grown to love being in the room for that.
“It’s a reflection of the community and the passion that it has for playwrights and new writing,” Henry says. “It’s also the hunger people have for seeing things at an early stage, on the ground floor so to speak. The audience has a great commitment to us.”
The 15th Annual Page-to-Stage New Play Festival
The Kennedy Center
2700 F Street, NW
Washington, DC 20566
Saturday, September 3,
11:00 a.m.–10:30 p.m.
Sunday, September 4,
Monday, September 5,
11 a.m.–10:00 p.m.
FREE! No tickets required
Limited seating available.
DCTS Sortable Guide to Page-to-Stage 2016
When choosing theaters to be a part of Page to Stage, Henry says there’s no strict parameters in place and he’s happy to consider companies with strong commitments to a writer or group of writers.
“We’re not an editor or a jury with any type of a verdict. Our festival is open to any interested company and their relationship to a particular playwright,” he says. “In the case of a number of offerings, Page to Stage also has playwright collective groups where they gather and share each other’s work and share multiple playwrights’ work during the festival.”
Performances will deal with everything from historical events, to current topics, to imaginings of the future. Page to Stage’s participants dig into a spectrum of topics that intrigue and inspire them, and showcases the diversity of the city itself. And that includes reaching out to a younger generation.
“I’m always looking at who’s creating a buzz because they are trying something new or fiddling with form,” Henry says. “Also, who is working with young people and getting them to hit where they live. We have a number of organizations getting kids to write about their own experiences using spoken word or hip hop—and that’s very interesting to us, because it’s a reflection of a larger community, not just the theater community.”
The Indian Ocean Theatre Company will be presenting a staged reading of a new, original, full-length comedy entitled A Theist, which follows a man and a woman, one an atheist and one not, who fall asleep in adjacent hotel rooms, wander into the same dream together, and, eventually, engage in a playful and thoughtful debate about whether or not God exists.
John Sowalsky, the show’s writer and director, notes events such as Page-to-Stage are important on several levels.
“First, and perhaps foremost, theater production is an obscenely expensive addiction. By opening performance spaces to those of us who have chosen the route of self-production, the Kennedy Center not only fulfills its role as the nation’s performing arts space, democratically open to all comers, but provides many artists with an affordable fix, not to mention a degree of visibility which would otherwise be unattainable,” he says. “Theater artists are, after all, consummate exhibitionists, but unlike your garden-variety flashers, we must bring our audience to us, to a specific place at a specific time, which is terribly inconvenient for all involved.”
When do you want to go? What do you want to see?
DCTS Sortable Guide to the Page-to-Stage New Plays Festival
Deborah Randall, founder/Artistic Director of the Laurel, Md.-based Venus Theatre, notes the company will be presenting a double bill this year.
“The first is a selection from Juliana by Vanda, a playwright produced at Venus Theatre about a decade ago. When I heard about her novel and how she was reading chapters at interesting venues around Manhattan, I wanted to bring her here,” she says. “We’re also presenting a reading of The Ravens by Australian playwright Alana Valentine. Research for this play was informed by a two month residency at the Victoria Street women’s refuge Lou’s Place, and resulted in the writer several times accompanying clients into the Kings Cross safe injecting room, the Love Machine strip club and several other Kings Cross locations detailed in the play.”
Venus, known for its woman-empowering work, has been coming to the festival for more than 10 years and Randall feels it has always been helpful to the company.
“It exposes us to new audiences and it validates both the work we do for women and the form and importance of the blackbox/storefront theatre by including us,” she says. “This has become more important over the decade because our current theatrical world has become somewhat conservative and exclusive to any companies not holding large purse strings or run by men.”
Tracey Elaine Chessum, Founder/Artistic Director of the Pallas Theatre Collective, says the company will be presenting its next new musical, Crazy Mary Lincoln by Jan Levy Tranen & Jay Schwandt.
“Crazy Mary Lincoln follows the First Family after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Mary Todd Lincoln desperately tries to hold onto the memory of her husband as a father and a family man, while her son Robert Todd Lincoln tries to help the country grieve the loss of its President,” she says. “This struggle between mother and son brings up a fascinating dilemma—does Lincoln’s legacy belong to his family, or does it belong to the ages?”
This musical has just begun its development process with Pallas and will go through four readings across the country, culminating in a full production of the musical in 2017.
“For Pallas, public readings are an integral part of the development process, and the opportunity to present a reading to such a massive audience in such a fantastic location is priceless,” Chessum says. “I appreciate and admire the Kennedy Center’s dedication to making new work accessible to a wider audience, showcasing the vast number of talented theatre companies and artists in the area.”
The Kennedy Center’s Atrium and Roof Terrace will be transformed into a café and beer garden for the duration of the festival. Additionally, there will be a karaoke after-party taking place inside of the Atrium on Saturday, beginning at 9 p.m. On Labor Day, the Atrium will serve free hotdogs, chips, and soda beginning at noon on a first-come, first-served basis, while supplies last.