By Carrie Chapter, Philadelphia Theatre Company
From February 18th to March 3rd the Suzanne Roberts theatre on Philadelphia’s Avenue of the Arts buzzed with activity. Our 2013 PTC@Play Festival, which hosted over 70 participating artists in 21 plays over the course of nine days, transformed the space into a hub for exciting plays-in-progress, delicious food & drink, music, and theatregoers eager to access what’s new in the world of American theatre.
Thanks to the generosity of the Knight and Wyncote Foundations, for the second year in a row, we were able to expand the Festival and support a wider diversity of new work. From pieces by young people still in school to plays by emerging and established professionals practicing in the field, no other festival in the country captured this breadth of artistic sprawl, nor provided this spectrum of performance in the course of two weeks.
We kicked off the Festival with the announcement of the Terrence McNally New Play Award, which honors a playwright whose work exemplifies the transformative power of art. Our honoree was playwright A. Zell Williams for his new play THE URBAN RETREAT, which follows an unlikely reunion between a teacher and former student in the colliding worlds of Hip-Hop and memoir-writing. The evening continued with our first staged reading, Bruce Graham’s STELLA AND LOU, a valentine to South Philly and two of its residents who find themselves falling for each other later in life. Next up, it was time to disrobe the life of Philadelphia artist, Thomas Eakins, in our Special Event reading by last year’s inaugural Terrence McNally Award winner, Bill Cain, which featured an excerpt from his work-in-progress, UNVARNISHED, followed by an onstage talkback. Then, we attended one woman’s journey through time, space, and social history in Julie Marie Myatt’s new play, WAKE UP, MRS. MOORE.
During the weekend, the world of professional swimming met scandal in Lucas Hnath’s RED SPEEDO, and then, on Monday, we visited a different kind of politic – of the musical variety – in Carlyle Brown’s NOBODY, NO TIME, which took a revealing look at the life of vaudevillian performer, Bert Williams. The Festival then welcomed Philly Reality, which showcased brand new work by Philadelphia students, and in between, playwright Lee Blessing explored a true-to-life dark incident in collegiate sports in his play, FOR THE LOYAL. Lastly, we punctuated our Festival with an exclamation point as we presented our popular FuturePhilly@Play, an evening of short plays by local Philadelphia playwrights; the night carried on with free food provided by Taste the Difference Catering, free drinks by Wines Til Sold Out and The Farmer’s Cabinet, and live music by the rollicking West Philadelphia Orchestra.
With our greatest audience response to date and a trove of pleased playwrights, we’re looking forward to conjuring next year’s new play magic!