Every year, Actors Theatre of Louisville commissions a new multi-writer play to showcase its apprentice company during the Humana Festival of New American Plays. A project already forged through collaborative partnerships will take on a larger role within the community this season.
“Sleep Rock Thy Brain,” a suite of three one-act plays exploring the brain science of sleep, will be created by Actors Theatre through partnerships with the University of Louisville, Jefferson County Public Schools and Louisville-based international stage flight experts ZFX Flying Effects. Acclaimed playwrights Anne Washburn (“A Devil at Noon,” Humana Festival 2011), Lucas Hnath (“Death Tax,” HF 2012) and Rinne Groff (“Orange Lemon Egg Canary,” HF 2003, “The Ruby Sunrise,” HF 2004) have been commissioned to write the script using research from the University of Louisville School of Medicine’s sleep center.
The project is conceived by Actors Theatre apprentice/intern company associate director Amy Attaway and literary manager Sarah Lunnie, and Attaway will direct the premiere. The production will feature choreographed aerial effects created in collaboration with ZFX Flying Effects, who will train the young actors to fly on stage.
“Though sleep takes up fully one-third of our lives, its purpose has long been shrouded in mystery. The science of sleep is cutting-edge stuff. Researchers are only now beginning to unlock the secrets behind one of life’s universal experiences,” says artistic director Les Waters. “Groff, Hnath and Washburn will harness the rich movement vocabulary of flight to explore the mysteries and complexities of the sleeping brain.”
Waters says that since he arrived in Louisville to take the reins as artistic director, he has been impressed by the community’s desire to engage in dialog about the theater’s work.
“I think the strong cross-disciplinary community relationships ‘Sleep Rock Thy Brain’ will forge are a fantastic example of how that energy, combined with a spirit of entrepreneurship in this town, can be a galvanizing force in the realization of creative projects,” says Waters.
U of L provost Shirley Willihnganz says this collaboration is part of the university’s mission to be a nationally-recognized metropolitan research university.
“What a metropolitan university really is, is a place that’s not just located in a city, but a place where the city and the university can synergistically combine the resources that we have to produce something that is wonderful and can only be done by a great research university partnering with the city next door,” says Willihnganz.
The production will be staged in the Owsley Brown II black box theatre at Lincoln Performing Arts School, where Actors Theatre’s education staff will teach a playwriting residency this year. U of L will also produce a series of interdisciplinary campus and community events about sleep and the intersections of art and science. After “Sleep Rock Thy Brain” premieres at the Humana Festival, U of L’s theater department will produce a second production, also at Lincoln Performing Arts School, directed by department chair Rinda Frye.