By ROBERT HAGELSTEIN
Blogger at lacunaemusing.blogspot.com
Oct. 31, 2018
One of the crown jewels of West Palm Beach’s cultural scene is Palm Beach Dramaworks, whose maturation as a major, nationally-recognized regional theatre continues to amaze. The very best regional theatres serve as incubators of new plays that ultimately find their way to other theatres – including Broadway. And now, Dramaworks’ new play development efforts are shown in full bloom.
In early January, the new year will usher in the introduction of a program that gives the general public a first look at plays so new, they’re still evolving. This is a very exciting opportunity to “get in on the ground floor” for all theatre goers in the area. Imagine, one of these plays could find its way to Broadway, and we will have seen it first!
The Dramaworkshop’s first-ever New Year/New Plays Festival will take place Jan. 4-6, when five plays will receive readings on Dramaworks’ mainstage. The three-day event also includes a discussion, “Regional Theatre and the Future of American Plays,” featuring panelists of industry professionals from major organizations.
The New Year/New Plays Festival will provide playwrights with the much-needed opportunity to hear their words performed in front of a live audience, which is instrumental to the development and growth of a play. Audiences not only have a chance to feel the excitement of seeing something brand new, but to offer invaluable feedback to the playwrights.
The five featured plays are:
“Red, White, Black and Blue” by Michael McKeever
A national tragedy sets the stage as Lenora Waters finds herself about to become the first black female president of the United States amid cut-throat opposition and demons from her family’s past. It’s part political thriller, part jet-black satire.
“Drift” by William Francis Hoffman
Set in 1957 Chicago in the lofted annex of a forgotten church and on the steel girders of a skyscraper under construction, “Drift” offers a concussive and heart-wrenching glimpse of a family trying desperately to uncover who they are.
“With” by Carter W. Lewis
Minnie and Clifford devolve into a world of hilarious – but ultimately heartbreaking – minutiae as they navigate a blizzard, a dead son, a rat in the kitchen, and a half-decorated Christmas tree, hoping to find the last strains of dignity in their final days together.
“The Captives” by Barbara Blumenthal-Ehrlich
A gripping and darkly comic story of a death-row inmate and the closeted artist who’s painting his last meal. But he wants a stay of execution, not a final meal, setting in motion a social media frenzy and a series of life-altering events for the painter, the prison warden, and the man about to die.
“Ordinary Americans” by Joseph McDonough
Based on actual events in the early 1950s, Gertrude Berg and Philip Loeb, the pioneering stars of television’s groundbreaking sitcom, “The Goldbergs,” heroically struggle to save their show, their careers, and their friendship in the face of McCarthyism, anti-Semitism, and the political climate of the country.
With the exception of “Ordinary Americans,” the plays were chosen from among some 300 received by The Dramaworkshop, managed by Bruce Linser, in 2018. “Ordinary Americans” was commissioned by Dramaworks for a future mainstage production.
“I am very excited about the Festival and I hope audiences will share my enthusiasm for this invaluable event,” said PBD Producing Artistic Director William Hayes.
“One of my goals was for Dramaworks to be an incubator of new plays and a producer of world premieres,” says Dramaworks Producing Artistic Director William Hayes. “I knew that could only happen after we were well-established and thriving. As soon as the opportunity presented itself, in the fall of 2014, we launched The Dramaworkshop. We made the call for submissions, and the response from playwrights around the country was inspiring.”
According to Hayes, regional theatre plays a large role in producing new work.
“The economics of Broadway discourage Broadway producers from championing plays that have not previously been done elsewhere, which makes it imperative for regional theatres to identify, encourage, nurture, and bring to life exciting new plays.”
For more information, go online to palmbeachdramaworks.org/dramaworkshop or call the box office at (561) 514-4042.
Pictured above: Elizabeth Dimon plays Gertrude Berg in Joseph McDonough’s “Ordinary Americans,” a play based on actual events from the 1950s during the era of McCarthyism. Photo by Samantha Mighdoll