Actor's Theatre of Louisville (Louisville, KY)

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      Actors offering a toast around a dinner table

Theresa Rebeck and Alexandra Gersten-Vassilarios's play Omnium Gatherum, starring Edward A. Hajj and Robert Lee Simmons, was performed at the Humana Festival of New Plays, produced by the Actor's Theatre of Louisville in Kentucky. Photo by John Fitzgerald

The Actor's Theatre of Louisville, the state theater of Kentucky, is one of the most innovative companies in the United States. In 1976, it started the internationally celebrated Humana Festival of New Plays, which has become a major force in introducing audiences to an eclectic mix of original plays by emerging playwrights. In March 2003, with the aid of an NEA Creativity grant of $45,000, the festival showcased six full-length plays, the winners of the National 10-Minute Play Competition, a special anthology play, and a mix of innovative dance, hip-hop, and theatre performances. More than 30,000 people from 30 states and 25 countries attended the festival.

 

A scene from the play Omnium Gatherum. Photo by John Fitzgerald

The plays highlighted during the festival included Orange Lemon Egg Canary by Rinne Groff, the story of a magician with a dangerous past; The Second Death of Priscilla, a dark look at the classic story of the three little pigs; and Omnium Gatherum by Theresa Rebeck and Alexandra Gersten-Vassilaros, a unique look at the events of 9/11. This play was later performed off-Broadway, and was named as a 2004 Pulitzer Prize finalist.

There is fierce competition for getting a play produced at the festival; more than 600 submissions were received for the festival, of which six were chosen, and more than 1,300 submissions were received for the 10-Minute Play Competition. Many of the plays premiered at the festival have gone on to win awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, and eight have been adapted for film.

(From the 2003 NEA Annual Report)