2011 Arkansas New Play Fest

TheatreSquared Celebrates Groundbreaking New Works
May 19-22, 2011

NORTHWEST ARKANSAS—April 26, 2011TheatreSquared announced today the lineup for the 2011 Arkansas New Play Fest, the theatre’s third annual festival of new works. The festival will feature staged reading performances of professional plays and student works, a comedy improv showcase, and Northwest Arkansas’s sixth annual 24-Hour Play-Off. The lineup of events in Northwest Arkansas will take place at Walton Arts Center’s Nadine Baum Studios (505 W. Spring St., Fayetteville).

“TheatreSquared is passionate about cultivating great new works for the stage, and we’re thrilled to be collaborating in that venture this year with the Arkansas Rep,” said T2 Artistic Director Robert Ford. “This year, more than 100 artists will participate in the Arkansas New Play Fest—a major undertaking. We’ll feature new plays developed and staged by professional playwrights, directors and actors; we’ll showcase work by students and teachers from across the state; and we’ll host two popular comedy events—an improv showcase and the annual 24-Hour Play-Off.” 

The Northwest Arkansas lineup includes:

Thursday, May 19   

5:30pm – Opening Reception (sponsored by BHK Kafé, Jammin’ Java)
6:30pm – Disfarmer by Werner Trieschmann
8:30pm – The Spiritualist by Robert Ford

Friday, May 20       
6:30pm – They Want by Alan Berks
8:30pm – In The Book Of by John Walch

Saturday, May 21   
1:00pm  – Works in Progress, Arkansas Playwrights Workshop
3:00pm – National Writing Project Readings
6:30pm – The Poe Show, by Jordan Haynes, Morgan Hicks, & Kris Stoker
9:00pm – Comedy Improv Showcase — featuring Dan’s Party, Phunbags Comedy Improv, and musical guests Black & Tan

Sunday, May 22   
2:00pm – The Arkansas Young Playwrights Showcase
6:30pm – The 24 Hour Play-Off (Performances & Judging)

For the first time, TheatreSquared is partnering with Arkansas Repertory Theatre to bring the Arkansas New Play Fest to Little Rock. The Rep will host staged readings May 21 and 22 at the Argenta Community Theatre while events continue in Northwest Arkansas. For a schedule of performances in Little Rock, patrons can visit www.therep.org, or call (501) 378-0405.

“I admire TheatreSquared’s work and hope this is the beginning of a sustainable and fruitful partnership,” said Bob Hupp, Artistic Director for Arkansas Repertory Theatre. “I think audiences from across the state will benefit from an ongoing collaboration between our two theatres.”

The centerpiece of the Arkansas New Play Fest is the development of four new works for the stage. New plays with no prior productions are selected from a pool of submissions, and each playwright is brought to Northwest Arkansas to work with experienced directors and professional actors to further develop the script. At the end of the process, plays are performed for the public with script in hand, and audiences are invited to stay after the show for a conversation with the playwright, director and actors to help shape the script’s further development.

The first new play, Disfarmer, by award-winning Arkansas playwright Werner Trieschmann, returns after two years’ further development since its debut at the festival in 2009. This comedic portrait tells the story of Disfarmer, an eccentric photographer from Heber Springs, Arkansas who charged townsfolk and visitors a quarter to have their picture taken in the early forties—and caused a minor speculative mania decades later as New York gallery owners “discovered” his work and descended on the small Arkansas town. Directed by Kate Frank and performed Thursday, May 19 at 6:30pm.

The Spiritualist is a new work-in-progress by TheatreSquared’s artistic director and playwright-in-residence, Robert Ford. Inspired by true events, the play introduces Rosemary Dunn, and English widow who cooks for the school meals service—and communes with the spirits of dead composers. When an enterprising American reporter tries to unmask the self-proclaimed psychic as a fraud, he finds there may be more at play than simple musical sleight-of-hand. Directed by Michael Landman (The 39 Steps, Rabbit Hole) and performed Thursday, May 19 at 8:30pm.

They Want, by Minneapolis-based playwright Alan Berks, dramatically explores the private struggles of a powerful family during a time of war. A modern retelling of the Oresteia by Greek tragedian Aeschylus, They Want revolves around a debt of vengeance forged by fateful choices made by the head of the household, the nation’s powerful Minister of War. A journalist entry into the family's inner sanctum upsets a delicate balance, and unleashes a dangerous chain of events. Directed by Robert Ford (Drawer Boy) and performed Friday, May 20 at 6:30pm.

In The Book Of, by New York-based playwright John Walch, is an engaging new play that re-imagines the biblical book of Ruth in the modern day. Naomi, a U.S. Army Lieutenant stationed near Kabul, and Anisah, her Afghan translator, are reeling from the losses of both their husbands in Afghanistan. When Naomi is discharged and prepares to return to the States with her adult son, Anisah unexpectedly asks to go with them.  A simple leap of faith brings this unlikely pair to a small town in Mississippi, where love and tolerance struggle to overcome hatred and fear as they try to rebuild their lives. Directed by Amy Herzberg (‘Twas the Night, Moonlight and Magnolias, The Last Five Years, Bad Dates) and performed Friday, May 20 at 8:30pm.

TheatreSquared is hosting two free public events in the afternoon of Saturday, May 21. At 1:00pm, the Arkansas Playwrights Workshop, a group of local writers who meet monthly to read and develop new scripts, will present readings from works in progress. At 3:00pm, Northwest Arkansas teachers participating in the National Writing Project, a countrywide service program, will present free readings of works developed during this school year’s writing initiatives.

At 6:30pm on May 21, T2 veterans Jordan Haynes, Liam Selvey and Sean Phillip Mabrey along with Artists Laboratory Theatre co-founder Erika Wilhite will present The Poe Show, featuring a group of actors with a fast-paced, interactive—and somewhat unorthodox—take on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Written and developed by TheatreSquared, this new work will tour to Arkansas junior highs and high schools during the fall of 2011.

At 9:00pm on May 21, TheatreSquared presents  the Northwest Arkansas Comedy Improv Showcase, featuring popular local troupes Dan’s Party, Phunbags Comedy Improv and musical guests Black & Tan. Audiences are invited to join in for a night of spontaneous comedy created on the spot—and to set the scene for laughter with their suggestions and ideas.

In partnership with the University of Arkansas Brown Chair of Literacy, TheatreSquared is proud to present, for the third year, the Arkansas Young Playwrights Showcase. Students from across the region have been invited to submit scripts, and five have been selected for public readings at the Arkansas New Play Fest. The free public readings will take place Sunday, May 22, at 2:00pm.

Finally, TheatreSquared is partnering with Fayetteville-based Ceramic Cow Productions to present the 24-Hour Play-Off, a perennial favorite for artists and audiences alike. In competition for the $500 Jury Prize, sponsored by a group of Fayetteville businesses, six teams of five artists will write, rehearse, and perform a new ten-minute play—all within the space of 24 hours. Artists from throughout the region are invited to participate by completing an application at theatre2.org. The public performance and judging will take place on Sunday, May 22 at 6:30pm.

TheatreSquared is Northwest Arkansas’s professional theatre company, dedicated to creating exceptional theatre and innovative educational programs. For further information, contact TheatreSquared at 479.445.6333 or visit the Theatre's website at theatre2.org.


Marketing support for the 2011 Arkansas New Play Fest is provided by the Fayetteville A&P Commission.

Major funding for TheatreSquared’s 2010/11 Season is provided by the Walton Family Foundation, Inc., the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Arkansas Arts Council, a department of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

The 24-Hour Play-Off Jury Prize is co-sponsored by Lindsey & Associates, Inc., Mountain Man Supplies & Pawn, Big Brothers Pawn, Robert James Salon, Arts Live Theatre, Ceramic Cow Productions, and Phunbags Comedy Improv.

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Martin Miller