2019 Young Playwrights Festival
Written and directed by Walden Conservatory students
Review by Kate Barry
Entire contents are copyright © 2019, by Kate Barry. All rights reserved.
Louisville seems to be overflowing with untapped talent in terms of playwrights. Considering the Humana Festival of New Plays, which brings in the upper crust of theater patrons from all around the world, The Bard’s Town’s Ten-Tucky Festival and The Derby City Playwrights, it’s fair to assume you could throw a rock and hit a playwright. I, myself, have had original works performed as well. There is potential everywhere. At Commonwealth Theater Center, new work takes center stage with the annual Young Playwrights Festival.
Ten plays written by students of Walden Conservatory show range and depth from the young theater artists. According to the curtain speech by co-producers Keith McGill and Letitia Usher, these scripts were crafted by students in the fall of 2018 and the production give more power to students in terms of staging and acting. Some were funny, some were serious, and all were original. There are truly exceptional works in this festival that showcase points of view on important matters, perspective on comedy, and one of a kind plotlines.
The Engagement (written by Leilani Owen) is a delightful spin on the RomCom genre in which a young woman simultaneously longs for a marriage proposal and suspects her boyfriend of infidelity in the confines of a restaurant. Light comedic moments present themselves as the young woman’s best friend poses as a waitress and deceives a cook. Bros Out of Time (written by Connor Madison) examines the what-ifs of young love. This play combines science fiction elements with nostalgia as a young boy yearns to finally ask out the girl of his dreams.
Subtitles Unavailable (written by Delaney Hildreth) spins genre conventions with a narrator in the throes of an existential crisis as he finds himself in a 90’s sitcom instead of True Crimes style murder mystery. Roscoe Lindsey-Bruns is quite amusing as he struggles to maintain the narration and break the fourth wall before ultimately giving up. It’s the twist at the end that really packs a punch with this work.
The first act includes two more comedic pieces with Mooove Over! (written by Leah Cohen), and Fresca Frat’s Frightful Fun (Nixie Schweickert). Cohen’s play pokes fun at Farmers Market culture with four vastly different market vendors and the competition that ensues. Although the plastic food fight and flimsy poster board set pieces were distracting, the food puns and ghee jokes were top rate material. Schweickert’s absurd horror comedy about a middle-aged man attending a costume party was random and irreverent in its strongest moments. Ridiculous in nature, the timing and staging of each horrific moment felt hurried, and I wish we could have savored each before rushing to the next beat. Nevertheless, Nolan Brown’s nerdy old man’s appearance in a Forrest Gump hat was hilarious.
The second act presents strong works with BBBBB (written by Eli Turner) and The Enigmatic Intervention of Gary the Dinosaur (written by Zoe Peterson). Turner plays with both conventions of playwriting and the rules between a parent and her silly sons on their drive home from school. Taking each parental rule literally, Jackson Guarino-Sanders and Jack Scott as the sons that deliver up rich well-timed moments in this zany piece. Zoe Peterson proves to be the most valuable asset to this festival. Credited as a director, writer, and creator of the assorted video interludes, her best work arrives in Enigmatic Intervention of Gary the Dinosaur. Peterson’s dark comedy about a beloved children’s character with demons ends the night of plays on a high note as Gary the Dinosaur trounces and guffaws his way through a confrontation with his co-stars.
The festival presents heavier topics as well. It approaches a somber tone with the politically charged Mischief Thou Art Afoot (written by Sadie Lawrence and Oli Tierney), a message for change with Unified Sections of Ambrika (written by Jordan Moore), and call for acceptance with The Lucky One (written by Skye Shean). Lawrence and Tierney attempt their political satire by interweaving Shakespearean verse into a plan for impeaching a world leader as two secret agents debate assassination. A clever idea at best, this piece lacked subtlety and teetered on the edge of pretension. Shean’s The Lucky One obtains a coming-of-age element as a young girl changes her mind about strangers and learns to change her mind about those who are different from her. Jordan Moore’s Unified Sections of Ambrika stands out as a highlight of the evening. Set in a fictional country called Ambrika riddled by racism and injustice, a young girl restores her faith in the crumbling world around her with the help of a friend. Moore is fantastic as a would-be runaway, taunted by prejudice and longing for a different world that confides in her friend, played with honest conviction by Addie Regnier.
If the Young Playwrights Festival at Commonwealth Theater Center is any indication of what the future holds for the next wave of theater artists, there is some great stuff on the horizon. And I can’t wait to see more works from Louisville’s newest writers.
2019 Young Playwrights Festival
Thursday, Feb. 7th – 7:30 pm
Saturday, Feb. 9th – 7:30 pm
Sunday, Feb 10th – 2:00 pm
Friday, Feb. 15th – 7:30 pm
Saturday, Feb. 16th – 2:00 pm
Nancy Sexton Stage
Commonwealth Theatre Center
1123 Payne Street
Louisville, KY 40204
Kate Barry earned her Bachelors in English with a Theater minor from Bellarmine University in 2008. She has worked with many different companies around town including Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions and you have probably purchased tickets from her at that little performing arts center on Main Street as well. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. She has written for LEO Weekly and TheatreLouisville.com as well. Thanks for reading!
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