Playwright Kenneth Jones will map out his new serious comedy, Hollywood, Nebraska — about two actresses returning to their shared small-town roots for separate family emergencies — in a 29-hour reading process directed by Susan Fenichell, culminating in two free public presentations 7 PM June 15-16 as part of the 2016 edition of the NewTACTics Festival of New Plays.
The developmental reading is one of four plays being explored this month in NewTACTics, a program of Off-Broadway’s TACT/The Actors Company Theatre. Doors open at 6:30 PM at the TACT Studio at 900 Broadway, Ninth Floor. Seating is limited; a reservation is required.
Populating the six-actor play, set in a town of 2,400 people in far western Nebraska, are Seth Andrew Bridges, TACT company member Nora Chester, Shannon Koob, Alycia M. Kunkle, Alex Webb and TACT company member Lynn Wright. The stage manager is Amanda Tralle. Marianne Ferrari reads stage directions.
Here’s how NewTACTics bills Hollywood, Nebraska: “In the panhandle of Nebraska, two actresses of a certain age are making a homecoming in their small town. Jane’s in from L.A. to check up on her ailing mother. Andrea’s back from New York City to bury her father. Hollywood, Nebraska is a rueful, romantic comedy about the urge to be creative, the itch to move away, and the ache of reconnecting with the family, friends, and feelings that were left behind.” (Request a perusal copy here.)
In a program note, the playwright wrote, “There’s a small town in far western Nebraska where I have spent time, as an outsider, with people I love. Its heyday is over. Its population has dwindled to about 2,400. There is drought. Some storefronts are boarded up. Missile silos that once held weapons aimed at Russia during the Cold War have been decommissioned. An oil boom ended. The interstate diverted traffic away from Main Street long ago. A railroad cuts through town, but doesn’t offer passenger service. There are farms both fallow and fertile. I walked around town. I browsed at a thrift shop. I took pictures of broken windows at the Wheat Growers’ Hotel. I attended a church service. I shared dinners and played cards in a parlor with widows who loved to laugh and talk about their history. I was curious and inspired. I wondered about residents past and present — who left? who stayed? and why? — and it all made me think more deeply about what it means to lead a ‘creative life.’ That was the jumping off point for Hollywood, Nebraska.”
This will be the play’s first reading. Playwrights in NewTACTics are encouraged to revise and rewrite as they see fit during the week. Audience talkbacks are part of the experience.
Jones is a veteran of NewTACTics; his acclaimed play Alabama Story was read (and revised) there in 2014 prior to its 2015 world premiere by Pioneer Theatre Company in Salt Lake City, where Karen Azenberg directed. The title will have four regional productions in 2016, including summer runs at Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre on Cape Cod and Peninsula Players in Wisconsin.
His recent play Two Henrys, a two-time semi-finalist in the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, had a 2016 developmental public reading at Utah’s Pioneer plus private table readings at TACT and Florida Studio Theatre.
Director Susan Fenichell makes her NewTACTics debut. She’s a freelance director with credits in New York City and at leading regional theatres around the country. She is the artistic director of Hopeful Monsters, a collaborative performance group based in New York.
Owen Thompson is the producer of NewTACTics. Yetti Steinman is co-producer of NewTACTics. Lauren Miller is NewTACTics advisor. TACT/The Actors Company Theatre is led by executive artistic director Scott Alan Evans and associate artistic directors Nora Chester and Jeffrey Hawkins.
In addition to NewTACTics, TACT presents “salon readings” of classic plays in its intimate TACT Studio, as well as two full Off-Broadway productions per season at the Beckett Theatre on Theatre Row.