Alabama Shakespeare Festival (Montgomery, AL)

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      Male actor looking up at and with hand on shoulder of a taller actor, both smiling.

Jeffrey de Picciotto (l) and Esau Pritchett (r) appeared in a public reading of Jeffry Chastan’s A Panoramic View at the Southern Writers Project Festival of New Plays, a project of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Participating writers workshop and develop their plays with a team of professional theater artists, including Equity actors. Photo courtesy of Alabama Shakespeare Festival

According to Producing Artistic Director Geoffrey Sherman, the mission of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival (ASF) is to produce “geo-specific theater.” In other words, explains Sherman, ASF “looks for plays that have very specific things to say about the [American] South and about the African-American community in hopes that we will be able to attract the people we are here to serve. Regional theaters are here to serve our local populations.” To that end, an important part of ASF’s strategy is the Southern Writers Project Festival of New Plays, which supports the development of new plays around Southern and African-American themes.  Alabama Shakespeare Festival received an NEA Access to Artistic Excellence grant of $20,000 to support the 2010 Southern Writers Project Festival of New Plays. The grant also will support the world premieres of Nobody by Richard Aellen and The Fall of the House by Robert Ford, both of which were workshopped as part of the 2009 festival.

The three-day new plays festival is the culmination of an intensive residency during which the featured playwrights work with a director, dramaturge, and an Equity cast to workshop and develop a new work.  Festival Director Nancy Rominger points out, “The focus of the festival is on the work and the word.” Each new play receives a public reading during the weekend, which also includes full productions of previously-produced works and activities such as walking tours and an interactive breakfast with the participating playwrights. Scheduled for May 14-16, this year’s festival will feature readings of The Flagmaker of Market Street by Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder and A Panoramic View by Jeffry L. Chastang. Based on research by regional historians about the start of the U.S. Civil War in Alabama, the plays were commissioned to mark the upcoming 2011 sesquicentennial of the war.