Alma Theatre Company in California’s Bay Area will present Kenneth Jones’ six-actor comedy-drama Hollywood, Nebraska, about two actresses coincidentally returning to their rural hometown in the same fraught week, as part of the indie troupe’s Fresh, Raw and Wild New Play Reading Series, Jan. 12, 2019, in San Francisco. Alma’s founder Kelli Kerslake Colaco is partnering with New York City’s 72nd Street Gang Playwrights Collective, of which she and Jones are members, to present script-in-hand West Coast readings of plays by Gang members.
Hollywood, Nebraska is billed this way: “In the panhandle of Nebraska, two actresses of a certain age are making a homecoming in their dying small town. Jane’s in from L.A. to check up on her ailing mother. Andrea’s back from New York to bury her father. Will a disappearing dot on the map of the Great Plains provide a second act for each of them? A new rueful comedy about the urge to be creative, the itch to move away and the ache of reconnecting with the family and feelings that you thought you left behind.”
Playwright Kenneth Jones said, “I’m thrilled that Alma Theatre Company will test the latest draft of my play in California following a reading of it by Off-Broadway’s TACT/The Actors Company Theatre in 2016 and a six-performance workshop in Wyoming Theater Festival in 2017. Although the play is set in the High Plains of Nebraska, near the Wyoming border, the dream of California represents something powerful in this ensemble comedy that is both a love letter to show people and a tribute to the creative forces in so-called flyover states. I’m excited for it to be heard in California on its path toward a future world premiere somewhere.”
Colaco will direct and appear in the free public reading of Hollywood, Nebraska at 2 PM Jan. 12, 2019, at Phoenix Theatre II, 414 Mason St. at Geary St., Suite 604 in San Francisco’s Union Square. A reservation is strongly suggested. A reservation link will be posted shortly.
The San Francisco-area cast will feature Cristina Anselmo as L.A. television actress Jane; Joy Carlin as her small-town mother, Alma; Kelli Colaco as Jane’s former classmate Andrea, a New York actress; Lucia Colaco as wannabe actress Katie, a teenager; Tim Fullerton as Alma’s neighbor Robert, Katie’s father; and Trevor Marcom as Robert’s fellow construction worker Lance. Sean Jeremy Palmer is project consultant and will read stage directions.
The two-act play is set in a remote small town called Hatcher, in the panhandle of Nebraska, near the Wyoming border, “during a recent autumn in a kinder moment in the early 21st century.”
Alma founder Kelli Kerslake Colaco said this in an earlier statement about the Fresh, Raw and Wild reading series: “Resident players of Alma Theatre Company get to wrestle with top-notch new plays, writers are afforded a brilliant listening opportunity so they can grow their plays, and Bay Area theatre lovers get a front row seat on the action of watching great theater come to life. Alma Theatre Company is building a distinct reputation for edgy, high-quality work from an exceptionally talented company of actors. This new collaboration with 72nd Street Gang adds a very unique fuel to this fire.”
For the Fresh, Raw and Wild series, 72nd Street Gang playwrights are invited be part of the short rehearsal process and public reading, but if they are not able to make the cross-country trek, they can interact with the company via Skype, and there’s an opportunity for the playwright to appear at an audience talkback via Skype.
Alma Theatre Company, an indie-minded Equity company, is building on the foundation of a well-reviewed production of Colaco’s play with music you are my sunshine, which premiered in the 2017-18 season. The company’s goal is to continue presenting a mix of full productions and developmental readings.
Playwright Kenneth Jones further explained Hollywood, Nebraska in this playwright’s note: “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. There are farms both fallow and fertile. Missile silos that once held weapons aimed at Russia during the Cold War have been decommissioned. An oil boom ended. A railroad cuts through town, but it no longer offers passenger service. Interstate I-80 diverted traffic away from Main Street — the old Lincoln Highway — a long time ago. When I visited there, 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 so-called creative life. That was the jumping off point for my writing Hollywood, Nebraska.”
Jones’ six-actor social justice drama Alabama Story has been seen in 20 cities around the country since its 2015 premiere. The latest is planned for Repertory Theater of St. Louis Jan. 2-27, 2019. (Ask for a perusal copy.)
Kenneth Jones’ Alabama Story was a 2016 nominee for the Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award and a 2014 Finalist in the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference. It has been seen in more than 20 cities around the nation. His plays and musicals have been produced or developed by Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Pioneer Theatre Company, Florida Studio Theatre, Human Race Theatre Company, Hudson Stage Company, Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre, Off-Broadway’s TACT/The Actors Company Theatre, Wyoming Theater Festival, Pacific Resident Theatre, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Red Mountain Theatre Company, City Lights Theatre and elsewhere. Plays: Two Henrys (Semi-Finalist, O’Neill NPC); Hollywood, Nebraska (2017 workshop production, Wyoming Theater Festival); Circa 1976 (Semi-Finalist, O’Neill NPC); Ten Minutes on a Bench; Tortilla Messiah. Musicals: It Happened One Christmas, co-conceived with Karen Azenberg (Pioneer Theatre, 2015); Naughty/Nice, with composer Gerald Stockstill (published by stagerights.com). He is a member of the Dramatists Guild, BMI and The 72nd Street Gang Playwrights Collective. Learn more at ByKennethJones.com.