Words Come Alive

Theatre Lab, the new professional theatrical company at Florida Atlantic University, is wasting no time finding its groove. Since opening in October, it has hosted many series—including Play Slam, Making Musicals, and the Playwright’s Forum—with the goal of fostering new works. Theatre Lab is finishing out the year with its most ambitious undertaking yet, the New Play Festival.

Playwright Allison Gregory with the cast of Motherland.

   Taking place now through December 13, the New Play Festival packs six readings of new works by contemporary American playwrights into just five days. Each play is presented as a staged reading followed by a brief panel. The festivities kicked off last night, December 9, with a reading of Allison Gregory’s Motherland.

   “I can’t imagine having a festival of plays that gets to launch with such a beautiful, important work,” says Lou Tyrrell, creative director of Theatre Lab and organizer of the New Play Festival.

   Inspired by Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children, Motherland follows the tenacious Mother as she does her best to carve out a living and raise her three kids—Destin I, Destin II, and U-Neek—the best way she knows how. Given the sparse nature of staged readings, the cast does a remarkable job of bringing the characters to life. A special shout out to Karen Stephens for her emotional portrayal of Mother; Stephens by far had the most demanding role and tackled it with aplomb, nailing both the laughs and the tears like a pro.

   More than the actual performances, the New Play Festival is about the process of playwriting. When you attend the events, make sure to stay for the panel discussions as this is when you get to hear about the playwright’s process. In the case of Motherland, Allison Gregory began working on the play early this year after an African-American actress commented that she would love to play Mother Courage. This led Gregory to think about what it would take to “make it make sense for an African-American actress to do the role,” she says. She found that answer in setting the play in the present day and steeping it in so many of the issues that affect Americans, such as race relations, poverty, and terrorism.

  Being able to both see a play and hear from its playwright is truly a treat. It illuminates the inner workings of the theater in an intimate way that leaves you pondering the creative process. That in and of itself is reason enough to head down to Boca and attend the New Play Festival. Below, check out a schedule for the remainder of the festival and visit fau.edu/theatrelab for more information.

  • December 10, 7:30 p.m., This Random World by Steven Dietz
  • December 11, 7:30 p.m., Echo Location by Carter W. Lewis
  • December 12, 2 p.m., American Son by Christopher Demos-Brown
  • December 12, 7:30 p.m., Harlowe by Jennifer Lane
  • December 13, 2 p.m., Special Report from the War on Girls by Marsha Norman

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