ANPF 2022 Tickets On Sale as Directors are Announced
Ashland New Plays Festival Celebrates 30th Anniversary with Six Days of New Plays at SOU’s Main Stage Theatre October 18 through 23
Ashland, Oregon – Ashland New Plays Festival will present readings of five new works by winning playwrights Clarence Coo, Lisa Langford, Victor Lesniewski, Novid Parsi, and Jonathan Spector at its flagship annual event. The Festival Week runs October 18–23, with evening and matinee showings at Southern Oregon University’s Main Stage Theatre, 491 S. Mountain Avenue. Talkbacks will follow each performance, giving audiences the chance to connect with the playwrights about their new work.
“I am really looking forward to my first in-person Fall Festival as artistic director of this compassionate, artist-focused company,” says ANPF Artistic Director Jackie Apodaca. “Selecting ANPF’s winning plays is a true privilege. I can’t wait to be in the room with audiences as they experience these remarkable new works from some of the industry’s most exciting up-and-coming playwrights.”
This year is celebratory in more ways than one. This season marks the 30th anniversary milestone of ANPF—a volunteer-run, community-based non-profit theater founded in Ashland in 1992—as well as a return to in-person performances after two years of virtual presentations of its flagship event. Oregon Center for the Arts at Southern Oregon University has stepped up to host this year’s festival in its newly renovated theater space.
“This is our first in-person Fall Festival after two years of presenting our events virtually, and we are thrilled to be back,” says Board President Peggy Moore. “The only character missing from a virtual stage is the live audience. We have missed this vital part of theater and are happy to have the complete cast of characters for our 30th anniversary of presenting new plays.”
The Festival Week starts Tuesday, October 18, with an opening-night performance of Clarence Coo’s lyrical Chapters of a Floating Life, directed by Jennifer Chang. Set during the Second World War in New York City, the story follows two couples from China trying to make ends meet. Their worlds, once separated by class and education, converge when the two women find each other in Central Park and fall under the spell of the Chinese language.
Returning ANPF winner Victor Lesniewski examines World War II from another angle in The Hunt for Benedetto Montone, directed by Minita Gandhi. Set in Italy during the German occupation, the play follows a family caught between Fascist law and Catholic morality.
In Lisa Langford’s The Breakfast at the Bookstore, it’s 1973 in Cleveland, Ohio, where encounters with UFOs and spacemen intermingle with the Black liberation movement and a young woman’s journey of love and independence. The reading will be directed by Donya K. Washington.
“This play was inspired by a history podcast, Backstory,” Langford shared. “There was an episode of the show, hosted by University of Virginia professors, that explored UFOs in American history. In one segment, Stephen C. Finley, professor of Africana Studies and Religion at Louisiana State University, discussed African American close encounters and how they differ from White close encounters. White stories of alien contact tend to follow a narrative of being kidnapped, terrified, and exploited—a narrative that sounds a lot like the experience of being colonized. Black close encounter narratives tend to be positive and revelatory, with added elements of Africanist spirituality and the idea of a greater justice than earthly justice.”
Novid Parsi’s Remains and Returns, directed by ANPF Artistic Director Jackie Apodaca, looks with humor and honesty at intergenerational care and neglect. The play explores how one Iranian-American family does not speak of its own traumatic past, yet how the past persists, even in silence.
Finally, Jonathan Spector’s Best Available, directed by Marissa Wolf, is a laugh-out-loud tragedy looking at what happens behind the scenes during a theater’s selection of their new artistic director.
“A few years ago,” shared Spector, “a mid-size theater in my region was searching for a new artistic director. They invited me and a few other local artists to be in the room as the final candidates came through and made their pitches. It was a profoundly strange experience, but also a wildly theatrical one… I still have no idea what the regular audience will make of the play, and I am thrilled to have this opportunity to begin to share it with the public.”
Hear more from the playwrights about their new plays and view the full Fall Festival schedule at ashlandnewplays.org/fall-festival/. Festival Passes are $100 for five plays or single tickets are $25 each, available online and at the door. There is also student/access pricing at $15 per show for those who need access to a lower cost.
On Saturday, October 22, from 10 am to 12 pm, the Festival’s annual playwriting workshop—open to all writers—will bring together Host Playwright Beth Kander and the winning playwrights for a two-hour session filled with writing prompts and inspiration.
“I’m always in awe of the playwriting workshop,” says ANPF Program Manager Kara Lewis, “There is so much knowledge in the room with the always-skilled and giving playwrights. Every year, I learn something new, something that sticks with me and my creative process for years.”
The workshop will be held at Catalyst Ashland, 357 E. Main Street. Tickets are $10 or free for ANPF members.
Ashland New Plays Festival’s mission is to support playwrights with the development of their new works. The Fall Festival winning playwrights receive an honorarium and a week to workshop their plays with professional directors and actors, culminating in the public readings. Time spent in collaboration with the gathered artists and in community with our audiences helps the playwrights refine and develop their scripts. This year’s special partnership with SOU Theatre promises to bring local students in direct contact with new work and experienced professionals.
To learn more, visit www.ashlandnewplays.org.
More about the artists:
Clarence Coo is the recipient of a Whiting Award and the Yale Drama Series Prize, with fellowships from the Dramatists Guild of America, the Rita Goldberg Playwrights’ Workshop at the Lark, and more. He is a member of the Ma-Yi Writers Lab and an alumnus of New Dramatists.
ANPF’s reading of Coo’s Chapters of a Floating Life will be directed by Jennifer Chang, a multi-hyphenate storyteller and educator who won the LADCC Award in Direction and is on faculty at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.
Lisa Langford is a Cleveland-based playwright and actor. She received her B.A. in History from Harvard University and her M.F.A. in playwriting from Cleveland State University. Her play Rastus and Hattie, published by New Stage Press, was a Joyce Award winner with Cleveland Public Theatre, a Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center National Playwrights Conference finalist, and an honorable mention on The Kilroy’s List.
ANPF’s reading of The Breakfast at the Bookstore will be directed by director and producer Donya K. Washington, currently festival producer at Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
Victor Lesniewski is a former winner at ANPF in 2018 for Cold Spring. Most recently his play The Fifth Domain received its world premiere at the Contemporary American Theater Festival. He was the only American to be shortlisted for the inaugural Theatre503 Playwriting Award, which included six writers culled from over 1,600 applicants, and he is currently a member of The Dramatists Guild’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Access Committee.
The reading of his ANPF 2022 winning play will be directed by Minita Gandhi, a Los Angeles-based director, producer, actor, writer, and librettist who founded a mentorship organization, IGNITE, for BIPOC women and non-binary theater artists.
Novid Parsi is a St. Louis-based playwright who grew up in East Texas, a son of Iranian immigrants. His work has been developed and produced across the country, including Playwrights Foundation, Silk Road Rising, The New Group, and in London at Paines Plough. Most recently, the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival selected Parsi for its Confluence Writers Project, which will culminate in a staged reading of a new play in spring 2023.
ANPF’s reading of Remains and Returns will be directed by ANPF’s Artistic Director Jackie Apodaca, theater professor and head of performance at Southern Oregon University as well as being a director, actor, producer, and author.
Jonathan Spector is a playwright based in Oakland, California, whose work has been produced and developed at theaters around the country and abroad. He is a Core Writer at Playwrights Center, has been a MacDowell Fellow, and a Resident Playwright at Playwrights Foundation. He is currently under commission from Roundabout Theatre Company, La Jolla Playhouse, and Manhattan Theatre Club.
ANPF’s reading of Best Available will be directed by Marissa Wolf, currently in her fourth year as artistic director of Portland Center Stage, where she launched her first programmed season in 2019-2020 with two world premiere productions and work by notable artists including Lauren Yee, Lee Sunday Evans, and May Adrales.