Page 1

LIMELIGHT J A N U A R Y– F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 8







CAN’T STOP BOPPIN’ Actors Theatre kicks off the New Year with a trip to the enchanted forest in Anne Washburn’s Little Bunny Foo Foo, a fun-filled play with music composed by Dave Malloy. Read all about the show in this interview with Washburn, Malloy, and director Les Waters.


THE IMPOSSIBLE ACT OF LETTING GO Learn more about Andrew Hinderaker’s dazzling drama The Magic Play, starring actor and professional magician Brett Schneider.


We’ve announced this year’s slate of plays and playwrights! Read about the exciting premieres coming up during Louisville’s world-renowned celebration of new writing for the stage.



YOUNG PEOPLE ARE WELCOME HERE In our commitment to bring the art on our stages to young people, Actors Theatre has recently launched a program aimed at inviting teens to engage in theatre. Read all about our Teen Nights and Teen Council! TODAY IS A NEW PLAY Learn more about the history of the New Play Project and its place within the Professional Training Company season over the years.




Don’t miss a thing with this events calendar!

HAPPY NEW YEAR! VOLUME 17, ISSUE 3 MANAGING EDITOR Laura Humble SENIOR EDITORS/WRITERS Hannah Rae Montgomery Jenni Page-White Jessica Reese Amy Wegener GRAPHIC DESIGNER Mary Kate Zihar CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Jane B. Jones Tory Parker CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Bill Brymer Jane B. Jones Leni Kei Photography Abigail Miskowiec

Actors Theatre’s 54th Season carries us into the new year with more entertaining and beautifully produced theatre. We are thrilled to kick off 2018 with the world premiere of Little Bunny Foo Foo, written by Anne Washburn with music by Dave Malloy. Under Artistic Director Les Waters’ direction, the Bingham Theatre will become a magic world where a bunny is bopping, toads are singing and a blue fairy appears to put a stop to the mischief. We’re especially excited to welcome back Sam Breslin Wright (We’re Gonna Be Okay), who returns to Louisville as the titular bunny, as well as to feature ten local child actors as the field mice. Immediately following Little Bunny Foo Foo is Andrew Hinderaker’s The Magic Play, directed by Halena Kays. In this play, a magician, played by actor and reallife magician Brett Schneider, takes the stage to perform card tricks and share anecdotes, believing he’s in control. But some memories, once conjured, won’t be made to disappear—and sleight of hand can’t always summon the magic we need most. We can’t wait for you to be dazzled and delighted by this spectacular show in the Pamela Brown Auditorium this January! Actors Theatre continues to make Louisville a hub of theatrical excellence by investing in new play development through the Humana Festival of New American Plays. We are proud to play a critical role in launching groundbreaking plays and new talent in the field, and we greatly appreciate our local audience’s enthusiasm for new work. As we prepare for the 42nd Humana Festival of New American Plays, which will run February 28 – April 8, we would like to thank you in advance for your support and encouragement. In this issue, you can learn all about the exciting new lineup we’re looking forward to sharing this year!

316 West Main Street Louisville, KY 40202-4218

Thank you again for choosing to spend the first part of 2018 with us.


See you at the theatre!


Les Waters

Artistic Director

Kevin E. Moore

Managing Director

GROUP SALES 502.585.1210 FAX 502.561.3300 STOP BY the Box Office at Third & Main. Free shor t-term parking jus t inside the garage’s Main Street entrance.


LITTLE BUN N Y FOO FOO by Anne Washburn

music by Dave Malloy directed by Les Waters J A N . 9 – F E B . 4 , 2 0 1 8 


CAN’T STOP BOPPIN’ Actors Theatre’s New Year kicks off with a trip to the enchanted forest, where a mischievous bunny just can’t stop boppin’ field mice on the head. As Little Bunny Foo Foo unfolds, will the saucy rabbit heed The Blue Fairy’s warnings, or will she have to turn him into a Goon? In the hands of celebrated playwright Anne Washburn (A Devil at Noon, Sleep Rock Thy Brain), the famous children’s song becomes a fun-filled play with music, fueled by rambunctious humor and sly wit. Composer Dave Malloy, whose Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 was nominated for 12 Tony Awards on Broadway, joins forces with Washburn to bring this tale to ebullient life. The singing cast features Sam Breslin Wright (We’re Gonna Be Okay) as the eponymous bunny, backed by a band of Gentlemen Toads. In collaboration with director Les Waters, the talented team will spin an effervescent entertainment in the Bingham Theatre this winter. Before the start of rehearsals for Little Bunny Foo Foo, Washburn, Malloy, and Waters spoke with us about the upcoming world premiere of this delightful play. Turn the page to read the interview.


It’s such a hilarious script! I’m a huge lover of children’s literature that’s written for kids but appeals to adults—and I think that Anne has done that so brilliantly. —Composer Dave Malloy

—Director Bill Fennelly

Les, Anne, and Dave, what drew you to this project? Les Waters: The piece is very, very funny, and the combination of Anne Washburn and Dave Malloy working on it is a delight. Anne’s lyrics are so clever, and I love Dave’s music. In some ways, for me, this is personal—I have three grown-up children, and when they were young, we wondered, what could we take them to see that the entire family would enjoy? And the kids were like, “You work in theatre, Mum and Dad, why don’t you make something for us?” So here’s a present for my very grown-up children. I hope people will find it as enormously entertaining as I do. Anne Washburn: Once I know I’m going to write on something I try not to think about it before I start. I know that when I had the idea to write something about Little Bunny Foo Foo I thought it would be a scabrous anti-war musical—very political, very much for adults. I knew Sam Wright would be in it—I knew him only very slightly but he had come in to audition for a play of mine and had given an audition which was amazingly wrong for that character, and that play, but amazingly right for...something not yet written. It wasn’t until I actually started writing it, and had gotten a few pages in, that I realized that actually, no, it was going to be a play with music for children. Which I guess... was only to be expected! Dave Malloy: It’s such a hilarious script! I’m a huge lover of children’s literature that’s written for kids but appeals to adults—and I think that Anne has done that so brilliantly. I love that she hasn’t added an elaborate backstory or any of those things that typically writers do; it’s really just the song. She’s taken this silly two-to-three-minute song, and expanded it into a beautiful piece. And Sam is an incredible actor; this is a part he was born to play. He’s like a postmodern Bugs Bunny.


AW: Les and Dave have been involved for years and years, and I’m unspeakably happy to finally work on it with them. I think they both bring a taste for organized anarchy. I first heard Dave’s music in the workshop last summer and it feels dead right. Were there particular inspirations for the music? DM: There have been three main influences, beyond the children’s song. Pete Seeger has a couple of charming albums of music for children. I’ve also been listening to Carl Stalling’s incredible scores for Looney Tunes cartoons, which combine so many elements of jazz and classical music—so, channeling that manic energy. My other influence has been bebop, purely based on the coincidence that Bunny Foo Foo bops the field mice on the head. I’ve been listening to a lot of early bebop; specifically, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie have some amazing children’s songs, and bebop feels so perfect for the energy of Little Bunny Foo Foo. I’ve been thinking of our band, the Gentlemen Toads, as a bebop quartet. A bunch of local kids are cast in the show. Why is it important that the field mice are played by children? AW: I remember being a kid and seeing other kids on stage or on TV and just being so fascinated with that, and identifying with their characters like mad, and also really being drawn to how much fun it must be for the kid who gets to perform. And so I thought putting kids in the show would make it more fun for kids in the audience. LW: On one level, casting kids is right because...well, they’re small people, and we see Bunny Foo Foo, who thinks he’s the king of the world, bopping field mice on the head. (If the story has a moral, it’s that whoever you are, you cannot go around just bopping people on the head.) But also, I think we often don’t see children in plays. Although theatre is supposed to represent the world, usually we’re showing just a fraction of it. So I like including kids in my shows.

What else excites you about the production? DM: It’ll be a treat to come to Louisville for a few months with my wife, Eliza Bent, the brilliant performer who’s playing the Skink, a goody-twoshoes lizard character in the show. Our music director, Andy Strain, is an amazing trombone player I’ve worked with several times, so it’ll be great to reunite with him. April Matthis (who plays The Blue Fairy) is someone I’ve adored onstage for years. It’s going to be so much fun!

LW: We have a great team. Barney O’Hanlon, who’s performed in many Humana Festivals, is returning to Actors as our movement director. Laura Jellinek’s set design feels like a piece of sculpture that children could play on, and that has surprises in it. The design team’s approach has been to think about what a six- or seven-year-old would like to see. Our process has been to reach for the most playful ideas—asking what would be most fun for the performers to perform, and for the audience to watch. I hope we’ll charm the socks off people. —Interview by Amy Wegener

Costume Designer Paloma Young created these costume renderings for The Blue Fairy and Bunny Foo Foo.


T H E M AG IC P LAY by Andrew Hinderaker directed by Halena Kays

with magic created by Brett Schneider J A N . 2 3 – F E B . 1 1 , 2 0 1 8  8

THE IMPOSSIBLE ACT OF LETTING GO You’re in the audience at a magic show. The lights rise on a well-known professional magician, ready to dazzle you with card tricks and other feats of sleight of hand. Whether he’s introducing his next stunt with a quippy anecdote, inviting a volunteer to join him onstage, or handling multiple decks with incredible dexterity, the Magician doesn’t miss a beat. Filled with breathtaking visual effects, Andrew Hinderaker’s drama The Magic Play conjures just such a scenario in the Pamela Brown Auditorium, turning us into the spectators for the Magician’s meticulously planned act. But what begins as a display of magic becomes a deep dive into matters of the heart, as memories of the Magician’s ex-lover intrude upon his routine. After all, there are some things that even the most accomplished illusionist can’t control—and the appearance of control may be the greatest illusion of all.

(Continued on next page)


It’s very much a play about ideas and emotions. It’s about the Magician discovering who he is and how he is in the world. —Director Halena Kays For the Magician, rigorously engineering each piece of his act is second nature. No matter what surprises he encounters during a performance, he must be prepared. But tonight, he’ll find himself going off-script. “When we meet the Magician, it’s like we’re seeing one of his magic shows,” explains actor and professional magician Brett Schneider, who plays the charismatic sleight-of-hand artist. “He attempts to perform his routine as usual, even though his lover’s just left him—but his private self and stage persona start to clash. We end up watching him struggle to get through his act as he tries—and fails—to shake the presence of this person who has walked out of his life, maybe for good.” This person is the Diver, an athlete in training for the Olympics, who challenges the Magician to step out of his comfort zone and embrace the unpredictability of the moment. The Diver’s interactions with the Magician reveal how they fell for each other over a card trick—and how another act of magic, orchestrated with devastating perfection, would shatter their relationship. The Magician also confronts his long-absent father, a fellow magician of considerably fewer talents (although, the Magician jokes darkly, his dad’s always been good at disappearing).

physical poetry,” says director Halena Kays, who helmed its world premiere at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre in 2016 and a second production at the Olney Theatre Center in Washington, D.C. last spring. “Seeing a sleight-of-hand magician display his skillset is like watching a dancer or an athlete, on a smaller scale.”

In all of his work, playwright Andrew Hinderaker strives to call attention to the power of theatre as a live event, and The Magic Play is no exception. During each performance, the Magician chooses four random volunteers to assist him with certain pieces of magic, and each piece can change from show to show depending on the audience’s response. The magic choreography itself is a spectacle to behold, enhanced by live-feed video projections that offer audiences a close-up view of the Magician’s work. In collaboration with Schneider (who has helped create the magic for the project), many of the show’s effects have been conceived by illusion designer Jim Steinmeyer, a legendary figure in the magic community. (Among other virtuosic feats, Steinmeyer came up with the famous illusion in which magician David Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty disappear on T.V.) “I often describe The Magic Play as a kind of

Hinderaker, Kays, Schneider, and the rest of the creative team are thrilled to bring The Magic Play to Louisville for its third production, continuing to explore how magic and the characters’ emotional journeys work together to make meaning in the story. “An exciting thing for Louisville viewers is that Andrew’s done a lot of rewriting, so this is the newest version of this already relatively new play,” says Kays. “In a way, the Actors Theatre audience is seeing a world premiere again.” What hasn’t changed is The Magic Play’s impact as a moving reminder that intimacy and trust are like a house of cards, carefully constructed and always fragile. The Magician pulls off seemingly impossible illusions onstage, but can he master the most challenging act of all—that of simply letting go?


But The Magic Play isn’t just a visually arresting series of tricks. At its core, it’s a poignant and relatable look at two people navigating a romantic relationship—and, in the Magician’s case, grappling with the difficulty of being present and open with another person. “The Magic Play is a love story,” Schneider elaborates. “It asks us to consider, what is intimacy? What is vulnerability? How do you balance wanting to control a situation with surrendering to the moment, especially with someone you love? The Magician is so well-versed in thinking a thousand steps ahead—he has to be, to be good at his craft—but how can you truly relate to someone if you’re a thousand steps ahead while you’re with them?” Kays agrees, observing, “It’s very much a play about ideas and emotions. It’s about the Magician discovering who he is and how he is in the world.”

—Hannah Rae Montgomery



Before rehearsals for the Louisville production of The Magic Play began, actor and magician Brett Schneider sat down with Resident Dramaturg Hannah Rae Montgomery to chat about what it’s like to perform impressive sleight-of-hand magic while also playing a character. For Schneider, wearing both hats is an exciting challenge:

In magic, you’re always attempting to control your situation without appearing to. You’re trying to make it look like every aspect of a trick is unfolding based on the audience’s choices or responses, when actually you’re orchestrating a specific chain of events that will result in your trick achieving its desired effect. Magic takes an immense amount of control—under the guise of no control whatsoever. On the other hand, when you’re performing as an actor, you’re trying to relinquish control all the time. You want to be available and open to the present moment, to not know where the scene is going and not anticipate what your scene partner will do next. That surrender of control makes the performance spontaneous and alive. So doing both at once is difficult. To pull off the complicated sleight-of-hand pieces in the show, I have to be thinking very technically, meaning I can’t always fully let go of what’s coming next. But at the same time, I have these emotional scenes that I’m playing, and in that context I have to be able to give myself over to the life of the moment. What I’ve learned is that a magic trick is just like a scene. Magic is theatre, and vice versa. Both are concerned with perception and reality and how you can create illusion and convince an audience of the impossible.



HUMANA FESTIVAL February 28– A p r i l 8 , 2 0 1 8 OF NEW AMERICAN PLAYS

12 12

THE THRILL OF DISCOVERY For over four decades, the Humana Festival of New American Plays has been a launching pad for extraordinary new theatre, introducing more than 450 plays into the national repertoire and representing the work of roughly 400 playwrights and ensembles. Every year, producers, critics, and artists from across the country descend on Louisville for an invigorating celebration of the art form: six world premieres, all designed and fully produced under one roof. Last year, the festival was attended by over 36,000 people, with visitors from 39 states and nearly 60 colleges. It’s an event that helps put our city on the map as a cultural destination, and one of the nation’s powerhouses for new play development. But beyond its far-reaching impact on the American theatre, attending the festival is simply good fun. The excitement around the building is palpable, artists mingle with theatregoers, and there’s a keen sense that Louisville audiences are the first to witness groundbreaking work that’s on the verge of becoming renowned far and wide. Theatrical mecca aside, the best reasons to attend this year’s Humana Festival are the fascinating stories and talented writers described in the pages that follow. Richly diverse in subject matter and perspective, these are tales that will whisk you to other worlds or move you to consider the one you know with fresh eyes. The slate we’ve curated this year is an exceptionally vivid collection of experiences that, in concert, will entertain and challenge, delight and move, and provoke laughter as well as thoughtful conversation. Read on to learn more about the brand-new plays that our company of staff and artists will bring to life during the 2018 Humana Festival this spring.

(Continued on next page)



Leah Nanako Winkler



by Leah Nanako Winkler directed by Morgan Gould in the Bingham Theatre February 28–April 8

by Deborah Stein directed by Meredith McDonough part of the in the Pamela Brown Auditorium March 6–April 8

by Lucas Hnath

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 wrote Kentucky (2015 Kilroys List; Ensemble Studio Theatre/Page 73/ Radio Drama Network), Two Mile Hollow (2017 Kilroys List; Artists at Play, Mixed Blood Theatre/ Mu Performing Arts, First Floor Theater, Ferocious Lotus Theatre Company), and more. She won the inaugural Mark O’Donnell Prize from The Actors Fund and Playwrights Horizons, and received a 2017 Audible commission.


Deborah Stein

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 griefstricken, 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’s plays have been produced and developed at Actors Theatre (2009 and 2010 Humana Festivals), ArtsEmerson, Center Theatre Group, La Jolla Playhouse, Z Space, Playwrights Horizons, Clubbed Thumb, The Theatre @ Boston Court, Live Girls! Theater, Workhaus Collective and The Gate in London. An alumna of New Dramatists, she is originally from New York and currently teaches at the University of California San Diego.

Mara Nelson-Greenberg

DO YOU FEEL ANGER? by Lucas Hnath

by Mara Nelson-Greenberg directed by Margot Bordelon in the Bingham Theatre March 9–April 8 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 Clubbed Thumb, Playwrights Horizons, Ensemble Studio Theatre and WildWind Performance Lab, among others. She is a member of EST/Youngblood and an alumna of Clubbed Thumb’s Early Career Writers’ Group. She is currently pursuing an M.F.A. at the University of California San Diego under Naomi Iizuka.

Mark Schultz

EVOCATION TO V ISIBLE APPEARANCE by Mark Schultz directed by Les Waters part of the commissioned by Actors Theatre of Louisville in the Pamela Brown Auditorium March 16–April 8 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’s plays include The Blackest Shore, The Gingerbread House, Ceremony, Deathbed and Everything Will Be Different: A Brief History of Helen of Troy, for which he received the Oppenheimer Award and the Kesselring Prize. He is a resident playwright at New Dramatists and a member of Rising Phoenix Repertory.


Susan Soon He Stanton

we, the invisibles

by by Lucas SusanHnath Soon He Stanton

directed by Dámaso Rodríguez in the Victor Jory Theatre March 23–April 8 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), and Solstice Party (Live Source Theatre Group). She is a two-time Sundance Theatre Lab Resident Playwright and was recently awarded the inaugural Venturous Playwright Fellowship at The Lark. Most recently, she worked in London as a staff writer for HBO’s Succession.


Jaclyn Backhaus

Dipika Guha

Brian Otaño

Jason Gray Platt

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 in the Bingham Theatre March 23–April 8 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 plays include Men on Boats (Clubbed Thumb, Playwrights Horizons), Folk Wandering (Pipeline Theatre Company) and You on the Moors Now (Theater Reconstruction Ensemble, The Hypocrites). Backhaus was the 2016 Tow Foundation Playwright-in-Residence at Clubbed Thumb and is currently in residence at Lincoln Center Theater.

Dipika Guha’s plays include Yoga Play (South Coast Repertory) and The Art of Gaman (Ground Floor at Berkeley Repertory Theatre). She received her M.F.A. from Yale School of Drama. Guha is under commission at Manhattan Theatre Club, South Coast Repertory and Oregon Shakespeare Festival, among others. She currently writes for the series American Gods on Starz.


Brian Otaño’s plays include Tara, Zero Feet Away, The Ocean at Your Door, What We Told the Neighbors and Between the Sandbar and the Shore. Residencies and Fellowships: New Dramatists Van Lier Playwriting Fellowship, Interstate 73, New York Theatre Workshop 2050 Fellowship and Ars Nova’s Play Group. Education: Otaño received his B.F.A. in dramatic writing from SUNY Purchase. Jason Gray Platt’s plays include Empire Travel Agency, The There There and Some Prepared Remarks. 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.





we, the invisibles




YOUNG PEOPLE ARE WELCOME HERE Actors Theatre has presented student matinees for select productions for decades, and we’ve recently added a new program to encourage young people to attend all the plays in our season. Actors Theatre now offers special Teen Nights for local teenagers. This season there are Teen Nights for every Brown-Forman Series show, and special Teen Nights for The Santaland Diaries and the New Voices Young Playwrights Festival. On Teen Nights, there are discounted ticket prices for teens, pre-show activities and a talkback with the cast. The pre-show activities are curated to provide a fun way for participants to gain greater insight into the production. The talkbacks provide the cast, crew and teens an opportunity to dialogue about the production and potential careers in theatre. Starting with the first Teen Night for Peter and the Starcatcher, Actors Theatre has hosted over 300 area teenagers. In addition, Actors Theatre launched the Teen Council last season. The Council was created with the aim of cultivating the next generation of arts leaders, both in their schools and in the larger Louisville community. Open to high school students, the Teen Council is a free opportunity for teens interested in all areas of theatre. The Teen Council has monthly events, such as attending the Professional Training Company Solo Mio performances, observing a rehearsal or touring the theatre spaces. The Teen Council now has over 50 members.

The Angels in America Teen Night included a marathon performance of both parts, with over 40 teens in attendance. Between the shows, students ate dinner together, discussed the production and spoke with director Meredith McDonough. Some responses from the teens about the play are shared below:

WHAT RESONATES WITH YOU ABOUT THE PLAY? • We try to be perceived as “normal” • Personal goals vs. ethics/love • The strain that society puts on individuals • How differently people react to pain • Does it make sense for everyone to prioritize themselves? • The struggle between religion and society • The struggle to define love


• How heavily it addresses its topics head-on. All of it. • How we react to “sadness” • Quarrels in the medical and science community and how values sometimes hinder research. Also the fact that humanity may or may not be enslaved to disease is scary. • What makes someone a good person • How the loved ones of those afflicted handle the situation

Top: Teen Council members enjoy the lobby enrichment activites outside the Solo Mio #3 performance. Photo by Jane B. Jones. Bottom: The cast of Skeleton Crew engages with the audience during the talkback for Teen Night, moderated by Education Associate Janelle Dunn. Photo by Abigail Miskowiec.

In November, Teen Council members observed a Skeleton Crew rehearsal and met with Literary Associate and dramaturg Jessica Reese to discuss the show. Council members developed questions to be used during the Teen Night Talkback. For the Skeleton Crew Teen Night, students from Safiyyah Dance Company (choreographer Safiyyah Rasool’s studio) taught Teen Night attendees some short pieces they could all dance together. —Jane B. Jones 19

TODAY IS A NEW PLAY Actors Theatre of Louisville is known for a commitment to new work through the annual Humana Festival of New American Plays, but there is far more new work going on at Actors Theatre than just what’s produced in the spring. During the fall, the Professional Training Company rehearses and performs three separate, brand-new plays. This series of new plays built by and for the PTC, known as the New Play Project, takes theatre into the community for an entirely different theatrical experience. Professional Training Company Director Michael Legg and Artistic Coordinator Jonathan Ruiz spoke about the history of the New Play Project and what it means for the PTC. The New Play Project came about three years ago after several experiments with generating opportunities to develop new work with and for the Professional Training Company during the first half of their season. “Ten years ago we were doing one forty-five minute piece, devised in two weeks, featuring all twenty-two of the acting apprentices,” recalls Michael Legg. As the project evolved, the idea of breaking that large ensemble into smaller casts took hold as a way to offer more in-depth experience with the process of generating new work. Starting in 2011, Legg began evolving the project in an attempt to find a process better tailored to the talents and ultimate purpose of the Professional Training Company. The acting company was divided into three groups, and alongside directing and dramaturgy apprentices, each group worked to create or “devise” a one-act show from the ground up with only twenty-five hours of rehearsal at their disposal, using techniques learned from a workshop with New Yorkbased theatre company The Mad Ones. But, according to Legg, “Basically what we came across was that devised work needs more time.” A company like The Mad Ones—which is made up of PTC alumni, including returning artists Marc Bovino and Lila Neugebauer—often takes years to devise and perfect a new work before putting forth the finished product. “We were giving them circumstances that just don’t exist out in the world,” said Legg. “We found that we really wanted to give the apprentices more opportunity to work on a new, already written play. Because that’s what we do here, and that’s what they have to do in their show in the Humana Festival. We thought that commissioning new plays would set up the rest of the year better.”


And so began the New Play Project as it stands today. At the start of each season, Actors Theatre commissions three contemporary playwrights to write a site-specific, one-act play. Because these are pieces intended specifically for the Professional Training Company, Actors Theatre usually offers this opportunity to playwrights who have experience with the PTC or Actors, or whose work lends itself well to this kind of process. After discussing potential performance spaces in the community with Actors staff, each writer is given a site in town where their piece will be performed. Past productions have taken place all over the city, from the Louisville Nature Center to Guestroom Records on Frankfort Avenue to Old Louisville’s La Casita Center. Finally, the playwrights also draw inspiration from short videos recorded by each of their apprentice cast members in advance of the writing and rehearsal process. With these barebones parameters, this season’s playwrights delivered hilarious, heartbreaking, and existentially challenging moments. Both Legg and Ruiz are excited for the future of the New Play Project and its reach in the community, as well as what it has to offer the apprentices who work on it. “Sitespecific theatre breaks down the perception of what theatre is and what it has to be,” says Ruiz. “Its unconventional nature is part of the draw. Not only can it bring in entirely new audiences, but it can reintroduce people to theatre as well.” Different potential venues around Louisville have already started reaching out to express interest in hosting a New Play Project performance next season, and the hunt is always on for environments and communities that offer exciting opportunities for storytelling. Small, low-tech/no-tech, low-budget/no-budget, sitespecific productions are at the crux of new work in theatre. “This is the kind of work being done, and this is most likely what these apprentices will do after leaving here,” says Legg. This is a bringing together of creative minds from all different backgrounds and beliefs. It is the next frontier of American theatre work, breaching the boundaries between art and audience, building and community, and meeting the heroes of these stories exactly where they are. —Tory Parker

Clockwise from top: The cast of MJ Kaufman’s Identity’s a Box of Chocolates. The cast of Idris Goodwin’s Six. Andrea Abello and Jerardo Larios in Isaac Gomez’s The Soul of the World. All photos by Bill Brymer, 2017.



1/9 – 2/11 24TH AFRICAN AMERICAN ART EXHIBITION The African American Art Exhibition showcases local, regional and national artists whose work celebrates African American history, culture and art. This annual exhibit, juried by renowned artist Kevin Cole, has become a popular highlight of the region’s visual arts season. Visit for further information on the exhibition, gallery hours and more.

1/11 OPENING NIGHT KORBEL TOAST AND RECEPTION: LITTLE BUNNY FOO FOO immediately following the 7:30 p.m. performance

1/20 BEHIND-THE-SCENES TECH EVENT: THE MAGIC PLAY 7 p.m. Season Ticket Holders: FREE General Admission: $15

After a light reception, attendees will hear from a guest speaker and then have a chance to step into the theatre and glimpse what goes on during a technical rehearsal. For more information and ticket reservations, please call the Box Office at 502.584.1205 or visit

1/25 OPENING NIGHT KORBEL TOAST AND RECEPTION: THE MAGIC PLAY immediately following the 7:30 p.m. performance



9:30 p.m. on 1/14, 1/16, 1/17 and 1/18

6:30-7:30 p.m. Sara Shallenberger Brown Lobby

Enjoy a bill of ten-minute plays selected from the National Ten-Minute Play Contest, featuring the Acting Apprentices, produced with the support of the Artistic, Administrative and Production Apprentices. This event is $10. For more information and to purchase, visit or call the Box Office at 502.584.1205.

Test your theatre, magic and fairy tale knowledge at Actors Theatre Trivia Night. Join us before the performances of Little Bunny Foo Foo and The Magic Play for an exciting trivia challenge. Anyone can play, but to qualify for prizes, individuals or teams must register onsite for $5 per person.

1/14 & 1/21 FAMILY NIGHT AT LITTLE BUNNY FOO FOO 6:30-7:30 p.m. Join us before the performance of Little Bunny Foo Foo for a hoppin’ good time. Kids and kids at heart will have a great time with a variety of activities, including face painting and the unique opportunity to have your photo taken with Actors Theatre’s Tony Award.


Calling all teens, grades 8-12! Bring your friends, see a great show, meet the cast and connect with other teens passionate about theatre! Use the Promo Code TEEN to purchase a $10 ticket. Valid for this performance only. Must have a valid student ID to purchase.


1/27 LOBSTER FEAST 2018: LEGENDARY LOUISVILLE 6 p.m. Louisville Marriott Downtown presented by Old Forester

Let’s #KeepLobsterLocal and show pride for our city at Actors Theatre’s annual costumed fundraiser! We’re ecstatic to announce that the theme for Lobster Feast 2018 is Legendary Louisville! Encounter the people, places and history that have made this city such a landmark. Whether you prefer a sports jersey or a fascinator, this evening of Louisville celebration is for you! Enjoy silent and live auctions, signature cocktails, an all-you-can-eat lobster buffet and dancing, all in support of Actors Theatre of Louisville. Dress casually or in costume. You can order tickets and learn more at, or contact Susan Bramer at 502.584.1265 ext. 3085 or


2/2 24TH AFRICAN AMERICAN ART EXHIBITION RECEPTION AND AWARD CEREMONY reception begins at 5:30 p.m. awards ceremony at 6:45 p.m.

Join the arts community in celebrating this year’s African American Art Exhibition. This free evening includes music and light appetizers, an opportunity to meet the artists, and an awards ceremony where juror Kevin Cole will present merit awards to selected artists. For more information, visit or call Laura Humble at 502.584.1265 ext. 3145.

2/22 HUMANA FESTIVAL KICKOFF PARTY reception at 5:30 p.m. presentation at 6:30 p.m.

Join Actors Theatre as we kick off the 42nd Humana Festival of New American Plays with light appetizers, a cash bar, a sneak peek at the shows and more! The event is FREE, but ticketed. Please call the Box Office at 502.584.1205 to reserve.


This performance affords a relaxed atmosphere with lower volume sounds and slightly raised houselights. Audience members may move about or exit the theatre as needed. For more information, please visit


Network with fellow theatre enthusiasts while enjoying live music, a cash bar and exciting giveaways! Sponsored by YPAL (Young Professionals Association of Louisville).


Calling all teens, grades 8-12! Bring your friends, see a great show, meet the cast and connect with other teens passionate about theatre! Use the Promo Code TEEN to purchase a $10 ticket. Valid for this performance only. Must have a valid student ID to purchase.



February 28–April 8, 2018 See it first. See it here. The Humana Festival of New American Plays is the premier event of its kind, celebrating some of the most talented voices in the American theatre. Each year, thousands of theatregoers come to Louisville for the opportunity to see groundbreaking works before they travel to stages across the nation and around the world. Experience these new plays before anyone else— and when they receive acclaim in New York, Chicago and further afield, you can take pride in having seen them first here at Actors Theatre.



316 WEST MAIN STREET LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY 40202-4218 Les Waters, Artistic Director Kevin E. Moore, Managing Director

Thank you to our sponsors: The Shubert Foundation Doris Duke Charitable Foundation

The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust The Gheens Foundation

Jennifer Lawrence Arts Fund at the Fund for the Arts


2018 EST’D.


What makes Louisville Legendary to you? PRESENTS







LOUISVILLE MARRIOTT DOWNTOWN 6 P.M. SATURDAY, JANUARY 27, 2018 Enjoy an all-you-can-eat lobster buffet, signature cocktails, dancing, and silent and live auctions, all in support of Actors Theatre of Louisville.


2018 Winter 'Limelight' Newsletter  
2018 Winter 'Limelight' Newsletter