Maren Schikler & Tony Pike in rehearsal for Rachel White’s The Brownstone. Photo courtesy Derby City Playwrights.
By Kathi E.B. Ellis
Entire contents copyright © 2016 Kathi E. B. Ellis. All rights reserved.
“There are six plays rehearsing in four locations around the city!”
Brian Walker’s grin is positively gleeful as he makes this declaration. And, as these are full-length plays rehearsing in preparation for Derby City Playwright’s (DCP) inaugural festival of new work by Louisville playwrights, a measure of glee is absolutely called for. It’s an impressive endeavor by a new organization which, last year, mounted one reading each of the ten plays by the first class of playwrights to commit to DCP.
So, how did DCP evolve? Walker’s Finnigan’s Festival of Funky Fresh Fun – eight to ten 10-minute plays written by local playwrights – ran for eight seasons and seemed to have run its course by the time other possibilities were on the horizon. Walker had already participated in Tennessee Repertory Theatre’s 2012-13 class of Ingram New Works playwrights which, he says, was instrumental in shaping the work he’s currently doing. And that experience anchored his own writing’s shift away from short to full-length scripts.
Around the same time, Walker was one of three Louisville playwrights who headed to The Last Frontier Theatre Conference in Alaska. Walker, David Clark and Rachel White met at the conference, became friends and, back home, continued to network and support each other’s works; both Clark and White were featured in subsequent Finnigan Festivals. Walker began to host impromptu readings of local playwrights, out of which the group Louisville Playwrights began to emerge. In 2015 at a meeting with ten playwrights, Derby City Playwrights came into being.
The first two years of DCP have played out differently, and Walker hints that year three will be different again. The commonality is that for a full year, a select group of playwrights create an intentional community whose purpose is to create and develop scripts for performance. Walker isn’t in this alone: Clark is the business manager for DCP and shares his passion for developing new plays. In addition, The Bard’s Town has opened its doors for the group’s monthly meetings and, for this year’s festival, is essentially the producer with Bard’s Town Executive Director Doug Schutte providing performance space, marketing, and ticketing services.
Nancy Gall-Clayton, who is the current Kentucky representative of the Dramatist’s Guild, says that, “Derby City Playwrights offers area playwrights a disciplined, intense, and supportive community for the development of full-length play. I’m very excited that Year Two participants will have full productions of their new work in the organization’s first annual festival, and I look forward to seeing each show!” Gall-Clayton, herself an award-winning, produced playwright, was part of the first class of DCP playwrights, and she and Walker are frequent finalists for the Kentucky Theatre Association’s Roots of the Bluegrass New Play Festival.
DCP is beginning to have an impact beyond Louisville. While established playwrights such as Walker and Gall-Clayton garner readings and productions around the country and beyond, newer playwrights are still seeking those opportunities. This spring Ben Gierhart, another year-one DCP playwright, was selected as the winner of the Charles M. Getchell Award for New Plays, an annual recognition awarded by the Southeastern Theatre Conference, for his play Another Man’s Treasure. This, says Walker, is what DCP can be about, “exporting theatre out of Louisville, not just about bringing in” plays by non-Kentucky writers.
In the meantime, “we have six full-length plays running in rep at The Bard’s Town Theatre [in July] – That’s really cool!” says Walker, with that gleeful grin lighting up again.
Note: Kathi E.B. Ellis directed short plays for several Finnigan Festivals
1st Annual Derby City Playwrights New Play Festival
Advanced Tickets $18
At the door: $20
Full festival passes available for $89!
Recommended for ages 17+
Please note: our theatre is on the 2nd floor, and currently has stair-only access.
Thursday, July 7
7:30 PM: @con by Ben Unwin
Fri, July 8
7:30 PM: The Bus Stop at Sycamore and Vine by Eli Keel & Tyler Curth
Sat. July 9
7:00 PM: The Brownstone by Rachel White
9:30 PM: Schrodinger’s Girl by David Clark
Sun, July 10
5:30 PM: Exposure by Taj Whitesell
8:00 PM: High Tide by Brian Walker
Thu, July 14
7:30 PM: Schrodinger’s Girl by David Clark
Fri, July 15
7:30 PM: @con by Ben Unwin
Sat, July 16
7:00 PM: Exposure by Taj Whitesell
9:30 PM: High Tide by Brian Walker
Sun, July 17
5:30 PM: The Bus Stop at Sycamore and Vine
8:00 PM: The Brownstone
Thu, July 21
7:30 PM: Exposure by Taj Whitesell
Fri, July 22
7:30 PM: High Tide by Brian Walker
Sat, July 23
7:00 PM: The Bus Stop at Sycamore and Vine by Eli Keel & Tyler Curth
9:30 PM: The Brownstone by Rachel White
Sun, July 24
5:30 PM: @con by Ben Unwin
8:00 PM: Schrodinger’s Girl by David Clark
Kathi E.B. Ellis is an associate member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society and a member of Lincoln Center and DirectorsLabChicago. She has attended the La MaMa Directing Symposium in Umbria, Italy and is featured in Southern Artisty, an online registry of outstanding southern artists. Her directing work has been recognized with nominations for South Florida theatre’s Carbonell Award. Locally, Kathi is a member of Looking for Lilith Theatre Company, a founding principal of StageLab theatre training studio, and part of ShoeString Productions, an informal producing collective. She has written book reviews and articles for Southern Theatre, the quarterly publication of the Southeastern Theatre Conference, and was a contributing writer for JCPS’ textbook for the 11th grade Arts and Humanities survey course and for YouthArts Tapestry, a Kentucky Arts Council publication.