Two Henrys, a three-character comedy-drama set at the dawn of marriage equality and the dusk of the worst days of the AIDS epidemic, will be explored in a spring staged reading as part of Actors Theatre of Indiana’s 2021-22 Lab Series in Carmel, IN. Richard J. Roberts will direct the May 14, 2022, presentation, representing the latest draft of Kenneth Jones’ intimate play about grief, guilt, prejudices, perceptions — and hope.
Playwright Kenneth Jones, who’ll be in residence with ATI in May, calls the Florida-set play “an unlikely comedy populated by Midwestern snowbirds who are seeking to preserve family. It begins with a funeral but ends in joy — expect tears and laughter.”
Here’s how ATI bills Two Henrys: “Constance has just lost her husband, Mike, after sixty years of marriage. But his sudden death isn’t the only grief inside her as she prepares for his wake. The sting of losing her son, Henry, to HIV/AIDS fifteen years earlier is aroused again with the arrival of a stranger at her home: Henry’s partner, also named Henry, has come to express his condolences — and to make a connection with the mother-in-law he never knew. As the booze flows, are the surviving widow and her grown daughter, Amy, ready to raise a glass to the unexpected guest? Two Henrys is a humor-laced drama about guilt and grief, perceptions and prejudices and the urge to find family.”
Casting will be announced later. Kevin Casey is the stage manager.
Two Henrys previously enjoyed two separate fully staged workshops (Red Mountain Theatre Company in Birmingham, AL, and Pacific Resident Theatre in Venice, CA) and a number of developmental readings (Utah’s Pioneer Theatre Company, Westchester County’s Hudson Stage Company), including two streaming events during the COVID pandemic (Wisconsin’s Third Avenue Playhouse and New Jersey’s Cape May Stage). The two-act play was a two-time semi-finalist in the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference.
Director Richard J. Roberts is resident dramaturg of Indiana Repertory Theatre in Indianapolis. For Actors Theatre of Indiana, he has directed The 39 Steps, My Fair Lady, The Musical of Musicals and two productions of Sweeney Todd. At Indiana Rep, he directed The Night Watcher, Neat, Bridge & Tunnel, Pretty Fire, The Giver, The Power of One, Twelfth Night, multiple editions of A Christmas Carol, among other titles.
Actors Theatre of Indiana previously produced Jones’ popular Alabama Story (published by Dramatists Play Service) and presented his six-actor comedy Hollywood, Nebraska in an earlier Lab Series reading. (Hollywood, Nebraska is also available to read at New Play Exchange.)
Reserve tickets to the 2 PM May 14 the ATI Lab Series reading of Two Henrys, which will include a talkback.
Here’s Kenneth Jones’ playwright note from the script of Two Henrys: “Set in 2012, this play is a time capsule, a period piece, a remembrance of attitudes, perceptions and prejudices that existed — and still exist. Most everything spoken in the play is based on words spoken directly to me or to my LGBTQ+ friends. This is a ‘coming out story’ — a genre considered by some to be passé. I’ve tried to make it unique by telling it through the lens of middle-aged and older people. It’s a delayed coming out experience — the talk a son and a mother never got to have. They are finally having the talk now, but not to their blood family. This is how the conversation might have gone with their respective family had timing and circumstance allowed it. As long as there are forces shoving people into the darkness, coming out stories will be relevant, necessary and alive. And if you think we’re beyond these stories, you only have to look at the alarming attempted suicide statistics in the LGBTQ+ community, particularly among queer youth. Talking is still necessary.”
ATI performs at the three-quarter-thrust, 200-seat Studio Theatre in The Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, IN. The campus is also home to the American Songbook Foundation, the Civic Theatre, Carmel Symphony Orchestra, Central Indiana Dance Ensemble and other groups. The Studio, The Tarkington and the Palladium are the three major performance venues.
Actors Theatre of Indiana is led by artistic director Don Farrell, associate artistic director Judy Fitzgerald, associate artistic director Cynthia Collins. They are co-founders of the Equity-affiliated company.