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Actors Theatre of Louisville’s New Play Festival: 33rd Annual Humana Festival of New American Plays

Published by Kurt Breznak

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Once a year Actors Theatre of Louisville produces more new American plays than any other U.S. regional theatre. ATL accomplishes this feat through its annual Humana Festival of New American Plays. The Festival presents a variety of plays from full-length works and performance pieces to ten-minute plays.

2018 Humana Festival Plays

Opening the 33rd Human Festival is Ameriville, a play about Hurricane Katrina by the ensemble group Universes. On their website, Universes describes themselves as “writers and performers who fuse Poetry, Theater, Jazz, Hip-Hop, Politics, Down Home Blues and Spanish Boleros to create moving, challenging and entertaining theatrical works.” Universes hit play Slanguages was produced by ATL in 2004 during the regular play season.

On the heels of Ameriville will be Slasher by Alison Moore, a Humana Festival veteran (Hazard County, 2005, and Snapshot, 2002 anthology). An ATL website article describes Slasher as a comedy that “mixes hilarity with horror.” In contrast will be Zoe Kazan’s play, Absalom, a drama about family. Absalom is Kazan’s first play presented at a Humana Festival. An actor in addition to playwright, Kazan can currently be seen in the film, Revolutionary Road.

Under the title Brink! a set of short plays by six playwrights will be performed by ATL’s Acting Apprentice Company. Commissioned by ATL the plays explore rites of passage.

Plays By Naomi Wallace and Charles L. Mee

ATL’s resident playwright and Kentucky native, Naomi Wallace will be represented with her new play, The Hard Weather Boating Party. At the center of the play is a Louisville neighborhood known as Rubbertown, its industrial environmental problems, and friendship among strangers. In an ATL article about the play, Wallace is quoted describing the play as “a study of how far you can push people before they push back.” Previous Festival entries by Wallace include two full-length works, The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek (1998), One Flea Spare (1996), and two ten-minute plays, One Short Sleepe (2008) and Standard Time (2000).

A play about history and identity, Charles L. Mee’s Under Construction will be directed by Anne Bogart and performed by the SITI company. Mee has had four other plays at Humana, Hotel Cassiopeia (2006), Limonade Tous Les Jours (2002), bobrauschenbergamerica (2001), and Big Love (2000). Under Construction is described as Mee’s third play inspired by American artists. (The first two were bobrauschenbergameria and Hotel Cassiopeia.) While neither Norman Rockwell nor Jason Rhodes appears in the play, Mee drew his inspiration from their sensibilities, according to an ATL website article by Sarah Lunnie.

Wendell Berry Celebration

As part of the Festival as well as ATL’s regular Mainstage series, Wild Blessings: A Celebration of Wendell Berry rounds out the 2018 Humana Festival offerings. Using the work of Kentucky writer Wendell Berry, Wild Blessings was adapted for the stage by Marc Masterson and Alice-Adrien Hansel. Masterson is ATL’s Artistic Director, and Hansel serves as ATL’s Director of New Play Development.

National Ten-Minute Play Contest

For 20 years ATL has held the National Ten-Minute Play Contest, resulting in a presentation of ten-minute plays. (In recent years City Theatre, a company in Miami, Florida, has co-sponsored the play contest.) The winner of the contest receives the prestigious $1,000 Heideman Award. Created in 1979 the award was given for one-act plays until 1989. Since then the award has been given for the best ten-minute play. The Heideman Award is funded by a special endowment named after the late Ted Heideman, a Louisville businessman.

The 2018 Heideman Award will go to Marco Ramirez, who also received the award in 2006. Along with Ramirez’ play 3:59am: a drag race for two actors, the ten-minute series will include On the Porch One Crisp Spring Morning by Alex Dremann, and Roanoke by Michael Lew. The ten-minute series will be held for only two performances (April 4th and 5th).

The Humana in the Festival’s name is derived from its longtime sponsor The Humana Foundation, the charitable arm of Humana, Inc. a health benefits company.

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