Photo courtesy of the Long Beach Playhouse.
The Long Beach Playhouse’s New Works Festival was conceived over 20 years ago, when then-Artistic Director Elaine Herman saw the need for a program to aid new playwrights.
“We have condensed the festival into one weekend instead of spreading it out over months as it is our hope to establish more interest in a festival rather than a season,” Andrew Vonderschmitt, Executive Artistic Director for the Playhouse, said, when asked how the festival has evolved over the last two decades.
The New Works Festival invites playwrights from all over the world to submit their unproduced works to the Playhouse's New Works Literary Committee. Members of the committee then pour over the 100-plus scripts submitted by both novice and seasoned writers to determine four winners.
Each winner receives a staged reading, giving the playwrights a chance to hear their words brought to life by actors, to hear feedback from an audience, and receive in-depth written critiques by professional theatre critics. The winning plays are then presented during the last week of August, with the four plays showing over the course of four days. The first performance will be held on Thursday, August 28, and the last on Sunday, August 31.
“In my mind, this is one of our most important programs. It nurtures the artist who writes the play. It gives the Playhouse a chance to showcase the talents of the actors and directors with whom we regularly work. And it gives the audience a chance to discuss what they’ve seen with the director, actors and sometimes with the playwright,” Vonderschmitt said in a statement.
“We receive so many good plays, it’s hard to choose just four,” said Lisa Morrison, chair of the New Works Committee, in a statement. "And while we didn't start out with the intention to choose works set in historical moments in time, this year's plays do have that in common. The topics range from racism, to the gay experience in Nazi Germany to the assassination of JFK.”
The 2014 New Works winners and staged reading dates and times are below, from the Playhouse's special event page.
Thursday, August 28, 8:00PM
Children of Camelot by Nakisa Aschtiani, Directed by Kate Felton
The Kennedy assassination has inspired countless books, films and conspiracy theories, but Children of Camelot asks, "What if?". What if Lee Harvey Oswald wasn't murdered in prison? What if he was put on trial? An alternate history of this major turning point in our country's history, this thought provoking play has us reexamining our assumptions and taking a closer look at everything we thought we knew.
Friday, August 29, 8:00PM
Caesar's Blood by Rich Rubin, Directed by Anthony Galleran
It is late November, 1864. Civil War is raging and President Lincoln was just re-elected. At New York's famed Winter Garden Theatre, a one-night only performance of Julius Caesar starring the most celebrated American actors of their time, the Booth brothers, is about to begin. John is a fervent believer in the Confederate cause and Edwin and Junius are ardent supporters of Lincoln and the Union. The drama of the bloody tragedy onstage is rivaled by the drama backstage. Family relationships, racism, and egos are all challenged in this provocative drama based on true events.
Saturday, August 30, 8:00PM
Sugarhill by Linda Ramsay-Detherage, Directed by Anna Kate Mohler
On a hot December evening in 1941, in Sugarhill, Louisiana, Marietta Trudeau returns home from a hospital stay following the death of her son. After reading her late son's composition on The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, Marietta believes the sudden appearance of a dark-skinned fugitive is that of a time traveler from the future who can undo her son's death. Marietta and her family defy racism and Jim Crow law to protect the man who has given her hope.
Sunday, August 31, 8:00PM
Dietrich Danzig by John Pisano-Thomsen, Directed by Phyllis M. Nofts
Paragraph 175 of the German Criminal Code in effect from 1871 to 1994 made homosexual acts between males a crime. When Nazis broadened the law in 1935, widespread social persecution took place and the prosecutions that followed resulted in thousands dying in concentration camps. Dietrich Danzig is the fictional story of a successful young ballet dancer and his attempts to survive Nazi Germany. In this compelling drama, love, courage, and perseverance are all tested.
Admission is a suggested $10 donation. Submissions for this year's festival are currently being read by the committee. If you are a playwright interested in submitting a script for next year's New Works Festival, click here. For more information about how to attend a performance, click here.
The Long Beach Playhouse is located at 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, CA 90804