Arts and Culture

In the world of American theater, Louisville is known for being the birthplace of new plays, with several premieres each spring during the Humana Festival at Actors Theatre of Louisville.

But what happens to those new plays—and those that are premiered every year around the country—after that first production? Many are never seen again. But a growing movement of small theatre companies, including Louisville’s own Theatre [502], is focusing on bringing “nearly-new” plays to regional audiences.

Theatre [502] was created by three Louisville theatre-makers who all have connections to other companies in the city, including StageOne Family Theatre, Kentucky Shakespeare, and Actors Theatre.

The company recently announced their fifth season: five plays, all of which are new to Louisville audiences.

Amy Attaway, Mike Brooks and Gil Reyes all share responsibilities as co-artistic directors.

While premieres bring prestige to a theatre company, the subsequent productions of a play are what really help a playwright grow as an artist—and help them make a living, Attaway said.

“Our founding artistic vision was to produce second productions and regional premieres,” Attaway said. “That’s something that playwrights need.”

"Auctioning the Ainsleys"Submitted photo

“Auctioning the Ainsleys”

In addition to three regional premieres, the company will also present two new plays by Louisville-based playwrights Steve Moulds and Diana Grisanti.

Attaway said she and her co-directors are working to pay their performers and technicians enough to help them stay in Louisville while following their creative dreams.

“What we hope is that we can become a destination for artists, rather than a city that artists have to move away from to get work,” Attaway said.

The Theatre [502] season 5 plays include:

Rich Girl by Victoria Stewart, which premiered in New York in 2013, is a contemporary comedy based on the Henry James novel “Washington Square.” The plot centers on a Suze Orman-like mother and her awkward daughter, who is wooed by a charming artist.

The Two Lobbyists of Verona, by Theatre [502} resident playwrights Steve Moulds and Diana Grisanti, is a newly commissioned piece that will be presented as part of Kentucky Shakespeare’s community partners week. The story focuses on a group’s efforts to build a Shakespeare theme park in Verona, Kentucky.

Failure: A Love Story, by Philip Dawkins, which premiered in 2012, is a fantastical tale about three sisters in 1920s Chicago who live above their family clock shop.

Qualities of Starlight, by Gabriel Jason Dean, who is also a professor at Spalding University’s MFA in Creative Writing program. The story concerns a young man who goes home to small-town Georgia to visit his parents, and discovers that they have become addicted to crystal meth.

River City, by Diana Grisanti, takes place in Louisville, in the present day and in the 1950s, and tells the tale of a young biracial woman looking for information about her father’s past.

Tara Anderson is a writer, host, and audio producer.