The 2015 titles in Pioneer Theatre Company‘s second annual Play-By-Play Reading Series — exploring new plays in intimate script-in-hand presentations featuring professional actors and directors — are Speculator Spirits by Josh Tobiessen, Slow Food by Wendy MacLeod and Mr. Wheeler’s by Rob Zellers. Public readings will take place in February and March at venues on the campus of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
PTC artistic director Karen Azenberg said in a Nov. 18 statement: “[2013-14 was] the first year of our Play-By-Play series, and I was pleased with the work we were able to do on these new plays and with the response from our audience. In a weeklong residency, the playwrights have the opportunity to work with a director and actors to refine and improve their script in rehearsal, and then to hear an audience’s response — prompting further assessment of the intentions and impact of the play. It was fun to share this kind of work with an audience specifically interested in and enthusiastic about storytelling. One of the plays from last year, Alabama Story, is receiving a full production on Pioneer Theatre Company’s main stage this year. This season’s selections will again offer, in an intimate setting, a first look at three fresh new plays.”
Here are the 2015 Play-By-Play plays and writers at a glance:
By Josh Tobiessen
Directed by Wes Grantom
February 20 and 21, 2015
“When a young woman brings her fiancé to her estranged father’s haunted liquor store, she’s hoping for a quick visit. But she finds that the past, and old boyfriends, have a way of catching up with you.”
Originally from Schenectady, NY, playwright Josh Tobiessen used his undergraduate degree in philosophy and training from the Improv Olympic in Chicago to start writing plays in Ireland with a theatre company he co-founded called Catastrophe. After having several plays-many of them site-specific productions-performed at such venues as the Galway Arts Festival and the Dublin Fringe Festival, he returned to the States to get a playwriting MFA at the University of California, San Diego. His recent plays include Election Day, Red State Blue Grass, Spoon Lake Blues and Crashing the Party and have been produced or developed at such places as The Alliance Theatre, Atlanta; Mixed Blood Theatre, Minneapolis; The O’Neill New Play Conference, Connecticut; Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland; Second Stage Theatre, New York; The Zach Scott Theatre, Austin; and AiShangChu Theatre, Hong Kong. Election Day is published by Samuel French and in the Smith and Kraus anthology, New Playwrights, Best Plays of 2008.
By Wendy MacLeod
Directed by Julie Kramer
March 6 and 7, 2015
“A vacationing couple celebrates their anniversary at a Greek restaurant in Palm Springs, but will the marriage survive an intrusive waiter who insinuates his way into their meal and their lives?”
Wendy MacLeod‘s play The House of Yes became an award-winning Miramax film starring Parker Posey. Her play Find and Sign premiered at Pioneer Theatre Company in 2012. Charles Morey directed. Her other plays include Sin (The Goodman, Second Stage), Schoolgirl Figure (The Goodman Theatre), The Water Children and Juvenilia (Playwrights Horizons), and Things Being What They Are (Seattle Repertory Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre). Her play This Flight Tonight was included in Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays, which premiered in Los Angeles, and was seen across the country and in New York at the Minetta Lane Theatre. She was the first playwright chosen for The Writers’ Room residency at The Arden Theatre in Philadelphia, where she wrote Women in Jeopardy!, which will premiere this season at Geva Theatre Center. Her play Drop a Dime appeared in the World’s Fair Plays this summer at Queens Theater and The Ballad of Bonnie Prince Chucky, a co-commission between A.C.T. and His Majesty’s Theater in Aberdeen, Scotland, premiered at A.C.T’s Youth Conservatory in San Francisco in fall 2014. A graduate of the Yale School of Drama, she is the James E. Michael Playwright-in-Residence at Kenyon College and the artistic director of the Kenyon Playwrights Conference.
By Rob Zellers
Director To Be Announced
March 27 and 28, 2015
“Life is a challenge when you work at a moribund fast food restaurant in a decaying inner city. But don’t underestimate the resilience of the scruffy band of young people who work the breakfast shift at Mr. Wheeler’s.”
Rob Zellers has had plays developed at Pittsburgh Public Theater, PlayPenn, the New Harmony Project, Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey, The Lark, Carnegie Mellon and Wake Forest Universities. He is co-author of The Chief, the most successful play in Pittsburgh Public Theater’s 40-year history, published by University of Pittsburgh Press and made into a feature film. Other plays: Harry’s Friendly Service (premiered Pittsburgh Public Theater 2009, Edgerton Award); and Safekeeping (O’Neill National Playwrights Conference semi-finalist, Pen is a Mighty Sword Award, and recently received a staged reading at Boston’s Accessible Theatre Company). Plays in development: The Red Cat, The Happiness They Seek and Smokey Hollow. Rob has been the education director at Pittsburgh Public Theater for 26 years.
Casting for the series will be announced. The playwright will work alongside a professional director and cast for a week-long residency, culminating in three public readings of each play “available to theatregoers at a very modest cost” — $5 for PTC season ticket holders, $10 non-subscribers. All tickets are general admission.
As was the case with the titles in the 2014 Play-By-Play series, Pioneer’s 900-seat mainstage — the Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre — is considered too large for the delicate incubation process of undiscovered work in barebones readings. Spectacular Spirits and Slow Food readings will be held in the smaller Babcock Theatre, located in the lower level of PTC, with the Mr. Wheeler’s reading held in the intimate Dumke Auditorium of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, 410 Campus Center Drive.
Sponsors of Play-By-Play include Sandi Behnken, Lee and Audrey Hollaar, Mike and Jan Pazzi, The University of Utah Department of Theatre, and The Utah Museum of Fine Arts.
For tickets, call (801) 581-6961 or visit PTC’s website.