Arts and Culture

Actors Theatre of Louisville has announced the lineup of the 42nd Humana Festival of New American Plays. It will run February 28 through April 8, 2018. 

This year’s Festival program will feature six world premieres, including:

God Said This” by Leah Nanako Winkler

“God Said This” follows five people in Lexington, Kentucky who are dealing with the concepts of life and death in very different ways. As her mother undergoes chemotherapy, New York transplant Hiro returns home to Lexington, Kentucky after years away. Sophie, her born-again Christian sister, struggles with her faith, while James, their recovering alcoholic father, wants to repair his relationship with his daughter. Meanwhile John, an old classmate and single dad, worries how he will be remembered after death.

“Marginal Loss” by Deborah Stein

What does getting “back to normal” really mean? This is the question the few surviving employees of an investment firm based in the Twin Towers ask themselves just a few days after 9/11. While grief-stricken, they work tirelessly to reconstruct their company, but wonder if “back to normal” is — or even can be — a possibility.

“Do You Feel Anger?” by Mara Nelson-Greenberg

Sofia was recently hired as an empathy coach at a debt collection agency — and clearly, she has her work cut out for her. These employees can barely identify what an emotion is, much less practice deep, radical compassion for others. And while they painstakingly stumble towards enlightenment, someone keeps mugging Eva in the kitchen. An outrageous comedy about the absurdity — and the danger — of a world where some people’s feelings matter more than others’.

“Evocation to Visible Appearance” by Mark Schultz

Samantha, a “possibly pregnant” 17-year-old, is haunted by the sense that nothing will last. Her college-bound boyfriend wants to go sing on The Voice, her dad’s asleep on the couch, and her older sister’s in treatment. Then Sam befriends a tattoo-covered musician who gives voice to her feelings of impermanence. This new play explores these concepts using dark humor (and black metal).

“You Across from Me” by Jaclyn Backhaus, Dipika Guha, Brian Otaño and Jason Gray Platt

We gather at tables on good days and bad, for ordinary rituals and once-in-a-lifetime encounters. But in polarizing times, what does it really mean to come to the table? Does it bring us together, or reveal just how far apart we truly are? With electric wit and fierce imagination, four writers explore this surprisingly complicated act, and the many ways we connect, confront and compromise.

“we, the invisibles” by Susan Soon He Stanton

Stirred by a controversial case in which a West African maid’s accusation against a powerful man is dismissed, Susan, a playwright working a survival job at a luxury hotel, starts interviewing fellow employees from around the world. She feels compelled to give voice to other hotel workers’ rarely-heard stories — but as her investigation deepens, this documentary project becomes an unexpectedly personal journey.

 

In a release, Actors Theatre of Louisville Artistic Director Les Waters said: “The Humana Festival of New American Plays is a leading force in today’s theatre. Our writers explore and define the world that we all share. I am very proud that Actors Theatre’s passion and dedication to artistic risk and courage creates a space for these voices to be heard.”

This will be Waters’ last Humana Festival with Actors Theatre; he announced in October that he would be leaving to pursue personal projects.

In Waters’ time at Actors, his decision to double the company’s commissioning program resulted in Humana Festival-debuted plays having runs all across the country, such as Lucas Hnath’s “The Christians,” Sarah Ruhl’s “For Peter Pan on her 70th birthday,” and Charles Mee’s “The Glory of the World.”

The 2017 Festival was attended by more than 36,000 people, with visitors from 39 states and 57 colleges and universities represented in the audience.

It is underwritten by the Humana Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Humana, Inc. Additional support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust.

Ashlie Stevens is WFPL's Arts & Culture Reporter.