Artistic Director Steve Stettler is giving a talk today, Tuesday 9/29, at the Manchester Community Library as part of Green Mountain Academy for Lifelong Learning’s lecture program. Local friends may want to attend!
“Great Voices of the Contemporary Stage” introduces four American playwrights whose works have been seen at Weston and major stages around the country. Join Steve and GMALL for an evening of education and inspiration; a fun opportunity to read, analyze, and gain a deeper appreciation of some of the latest masters of dramatic writing: Annie Baker, Christopher Durang, Suzan-Lori Parks, and David Mamet.
Amherst-native Annie Baker has been honored with a Guggenheim Fellowship and an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, among others. Her plays have been produced at over 150 theaters throughout the U.S., and internationally in over a dozen countries. Works include The Flick (Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Susan Smith Blackburn Award, Obie Award for Playwriting), Circle Mirror Transformation (Obie Award for Best New American Play, Drama Desk nomination for Best New American Play), and The Aliens (Obie Award for Best New American Play) which was produced at Weston in 2011, and pictured below with (L to R) David Ross and Greg Hildreth.
Baker also gets credit for her brilliant adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. “In Weston’s history, we had never tackled Chekhov,” offered Stettler. “To really do it well would take the right adaptation, the right director, and a stellar cast.” Director Mike Donahue said, “Annie’s colloquial 2012 translation made the play more accessible and allowed the humor to emerge” while Baker called Uncle Vanya her very favorite play. In adapting it she said her goal “was to create a version that sounds to our contemporary American ears the way the play sounded to Russian ears during the play’s first production in the provinces in 1898.” Scene from the Weston production below, captured by Hubert Schriebl.
Christopher Durang is an award-winning playwright and performer. With an MFA from Yale School of Drama, he’s a member of the Dramatists Guild Council and co-chair of the Playwrights Program at Juilliard. His pieces include A History of the American Film (Tony nomination, Best Book of a Musical, 1978), The Marriage of Bette and Boo (Obie Award, Dramatists Guild Hull Warriner Award), Sex and Longing starring Sigourney Weaver, Betty’s Summer Vacation (Obie award), and the 2013 Tony Winner for Best Play, Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike.
“I fell in love with this play the minute I saw it,” says Stettler. “It mixed the wacky but lovable ensemble of the great Kaufman and Hart comedies with the wit of a Noel Coward or an Oscar Wilde.” Also inspired by the plays of Chekhov, author Durang was quick to note that Vanya and Sonia… is not a parody but its own unique comic romp. While looking at the need for purpose and connection at any stage of life, the playwright skewers everything from the internet to real estate to Hollywood spin-offs in his clever attack on modern society. Scene from the Weston production pictured below, as captured by Hubert Schriebl.
Also on the Playwrights Roster, Suzan-Lori Parks. Named one of TIME magazine’s “100 Innovators for the Next New Wave,” Parks is the first African American woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize in Drama (2002) for her Broadway hit Topdog/Underdog. A MacArthur “Genius” Award recipient, her plays include Father Comes Home from the Wars, The Book of Grace, Topdog/Underdog (2002 Pulitzer Prize), In the Blood (2000 Pulitzer Prize finalist), and her Ray Charles Musical Unchain My Heart.
She’s written screenplays for Spike Lee, Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington, Jodi Foster and Oprah Winfrey, adapting Zora Neale Hurston’s classic novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. Holding honorary doctorates from Brown University, among others, the artist “credits her writing teacher and mentor, James Baldwin, for starting her on the path of playwriting. One of the first to recognize Parks’ writing skills, Mr. Baldwin declared Parks an astonishing and beautiful creature who may become one of the most valuable artists of our time.”
Weston produced the Pulitzer-winning Top Dog/Underdog in 2004; a searing drama of two brothers specializing in the sidewalk hustle known as three-card monte. A work that digs deep into the challenges of being African-American and male in America. Pictured below Raphael Peacock and Michael Potts as brothers Lincoln and Booth.
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet rounds out the group of playwrights. A Chicago native, Mamet studied at Vermont’s Goddard College and the Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theatre in New York. He returned to his hometown to found the St. Nicholas Theatre Company and also worked for a time as the artistic director of the famed Goodman Theatre.
Mamet is often remembered for his Pulitzer-prize winning work, Glengarry Glen Ross, and one of a few American playwrights to see incredible success in film. A long list of his scripts making their way to Hollywood…the Untouchables, Malcolm X, Vanya on 42nd Street, and Barry Levinson’s Wag the Dog, which earned the writer both Oscar and Golden Globe nominees for Best Screenplay. Steve director his play A Life in Theatre at Weston in 1992, with Kurt Deutsch and Geoffrey Wade as John and Robert.
Great Voices of the Contemporary Stage begins at 5:30 pm on Tuesday 9/29. $15 paid in advance; $20 at the door. CLICK HERE to purchase tickets online! Special thanks to event sponsors Rocco Maggiotto and Kathleen Fisher.