June 27--Last summer, Sharr White was one of Cape Cod Theatre Project's first playwrights in residence. He had a play he needed to work on, but also had a full-time job, a house, a wife and two kids. But after a week in Falmouth, the play was done.
White "was just so grateful to have that week, that freedom from those responsibilities to finish the play," says Hal Brooks, CCTP's artistic director. The residencies "are designed to give writers a week by themselves with as few distractions as possible but as much support as possible."
That play was "The Snow Geese," about a family struggling with loss during World War I. And White -- after making an acclaimed Broadway debut last winter with "The Other Place," starring Laurie Metcalf -- is bringing this new script back to the Falmouth company July 11-13 as part of its annual series of staged readings.
The readings that week -- directed by Brooks, a friend since the two were in school together years ago -- will constitute the first workshop for the script as this one, too, heads to Broadway. Mary-Louise Parker has been announced for the lead role this fall with recent "Orphans" director Daniel Sullivan; both won Tony Awards for "Proof."
"This is a wonderful opportunity for us to shepherd that play to its next destination," Brooks says. "It's what we (at CCTP) all set out and hope to do. " Once (White) hears it out loud with actors, he'll see what's working and what's not working, and he'll go from there."
Not all resident playwrights' work will have that kind of straight-to-the-top trajectory, but, in his second year as CCTP artistic director, Brooks has been growing the one-week residencies to become an increasingly important part of what the company does.
The core of its mission since 1995 has been to develop plays with writer, director and actors in the staged readings at Falmouth Academy, with the writers also getting the benefit of extensive audience talk-backs. As part of the regular schedule this year, three other plays will get the three nights of readings in July.
Before Sharr's play, the CCTP season opens Thursday through July 6 with "Schooner," by Rinne Groff ("Compulsion" off-Broadway with Mandy Patinkin) and directed by Trip Cullman (this season's "Murder Ballad" musical off-Broadway). This comedy is about a business-minded woman and her husband, a struggling graphic artist, debating what having a third child would mean to their lives.
Third in the series, July 18-20, will be "Grand Concourse." The play is about a woman with a secret who changes people's lives at a Bronx soup kitchen. It's' written by Obie Award-winning actress Heidi Schreck, whose writing has also been produced off-Broadway ("Creature" and "There Are No More Big Secrets"). Directing will be husband Kip Fagan, who this season directed Jesse Eisenberg's "The Revisionist" off-Broadway with Eisenberg and Vanessa Redgrave. Brooks is excited to have both Schreck and Fagan on the Cape.
"Part of my goal is to get writers at various stages of their career and plays in varying stages of development, and this is both," Brooks says. "She's's new, and this is very early in its development; some scenes weren't yet written. But something at its core really drew me to it."
Finishing the season, July 25-27, will be "Luce," by J.C. Lee, who returns after 2011's "Pookie Goes Grenading." The show, about how an incident involving a good student athlete calls into question assumptions that people make about people they love, will be directed by May Adrales, who will also bring it this fall Lincoln Center Theater's new plays program in New York. A dramaturg from Lincoln Center will be in Falmouth -- the first time a professional theater has been involved in the CCTP process.
For each of the reading weeks, Brooks has also brought in a playwright in residence: Lucy Alibar, Halley Feiffer, Andrew Dolan and Jackie Sibblies Drury. And while there are no restrictions on how the writers spend their weeks, he hopes they will interact with the directors, actors, interns and other writers on site so everyone can benefit.
As another way to engage the local community, he has also again scheduled a series of free Tuesday "stagetalk" programs around Falmouth, and those will include both the writers of the scripts getting readings and those playwrights in residence.
The residency program is largely funded through an endowment from playwright John Cariani, whose play "Almost, Maine" was developed in a CCTP staged reading in 2002 and has since become, Brooks says, one of the most produced plays by theaters at all levels around the country. Cariani chose to give back to CCTP through the residencies, only asking that participants be actors turned playwrights.
So this year's group fits that bill. The most well-known name is Alibar, an Oscar nominee this year for writing "Beasts of the Southern Wild." She's adapting some short stories she's written about her childhood in the South into a solo theater piece.
Another familiar name, locally and in wider circles, is actress Feiffer, daughter of cartoonist and longtime Martha's Vineyard resident Jules Feiffer. Her writing includes the New York hit "I'm Going to Pray for You So Hard." Brooks says he was wowed by her work and ended up scheduling her for a residency the same week as a director who will direct a workshop of one of her plays this fall.
"She's hilarious," Brooks says of Feiffer. "She'll be a wonderful presence on campus."
Brooks says he chose Dolan because he was also wowed by one of Dolan's plays when he was poring over the 250-plus submissions for the staged readings but didn't feel it was quite in the right state to be chosen. Brooks has been interested in the work of Drury, especially her "monster hit" of "We're Proud to Present a Presentation...," and asked her to come to Falmouth with director Shira Milikowsky from American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge to work on her play related to Frankenstein and the creation of monsters.
All of the staged readings are at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays at Falmouth Academy. The schedule for the "stagetalk" sessions in Falmouth is: 10 a.m. Tuesday at Highfield Hall, 56 Highfield Drive, with Alibar, Drury and Groff; 11 a.m. July 9 at West Falmouth Library, 565 West Falmouth Highway, with White (talking on his Broadway experience); 10 a.m. July 16 at Highfield Hall, with Feiffer and Fagan; 10 a.m. July 23 at Falmouth Library, 300 Main St., with Dolan and Adrales. Registration is required: 508-457-4242 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In advance of Provincetown Theater's production of "The Normal Heart," Larry Kramer's acclaimed play about the early days of AIDS that opens July 5, the theater company is joining with the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod to celebrate its 30 years of service. A benefit for both groups will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday at Sage Inn and Lounge, 336 Commercial St. Author Michael Cunningham will read from his book "Land's End: A Walk in Provincetown" and State Rep. Sarah Peake and the cast of "Normal Heart" will be guests. Tickets are $25 at the door or at provincetowntheater.org.
If you think Luigi Pirandello's "Six Characters in Search of an Author" is an Italian play from nearly a century ago, well, it is. Just not the way Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater is producing it.
In this version, created through the company's play-development program, Matt Foss and company artistic director Dan Lombardo set the idea of the play a lot closer to home: On WHAT's Julie Harris stage. Six characters -- a father, a mother and children -- wander off Route 6 into a rehearsal for "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (which WHAT is producing later this summer). These characters need an author; they want their story finished. But where to find one?
A press release on the show promises the characters will weave the story all around the theater, including through the audience and into the balconies, in their search.
The show is in previews Friday and opens officially Saturday, running through July 20. Tickets are $10-$37. Reservations: 508-349-9428 or what.org.
For more theater news and commentary, check out Kathi Scrizzi Driscoll's blog at www.capecodonline.com/stagedoor and follow KathiSDCC on Twitter.
If you go: "Schooner." Written by: Rinne Groff. Presented by: Cape Cod Theatre Project. When: 8 p.m. Thursday through July 6. Where: Falmouth Academy, 7 Highfield Drive. Tickets: suggested donation of $20 ($70 for a four-show subscription). Reservations: www.capecodtheatreproject.org.
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