When I begin to tell people about the Humana Festival of New American Plays I can’t talk fast enough. Anticipation settles into my chest and stomach, and, more often than not, I begin sweating.
Full disclosure: I worked at Actors Theatre of Louisville for the last few years, and this will be my first year going back as an alumni. Though my excitement is amplified knowing I’m going to see friends who still work there, it is remarkable how many people I’ve contacted to who are not ATL Alumni to ask, “are you going back for Humana?” The sense of national community, the “Homecoming” that it represents, is incredible.
I have never been in a place where the playwright is so revered and engaged. In rehearsals leading up to the Festival you see playwrights dotting the halls. They’re meeting with their dramaturg or director. They’re printing new drafts. They’re staring at the vending machines. Sometimes you can overhear conversations between directors and playwrights. There is a give and take that you don’t get to see in other social circumstances. Opinions and impressions are freely expressed. Motives are questioned. With this amalgam of ideas the playwright may continue to mold their script until their story is told. A playwright’s work is never finished. Even after opening night they may have new ideas for a revision.
You may know we’re working on a new play called Dearly Beloved. We’re taking steps to workshop this script because we have faith in it. We’ve worn opinions on our sleeves — openly offered thoughts and thrown them away. Open discussions have informed the work we’re doing, and I think you’ll see the playwright’s story coming through clearer than ever. We’re going to be taking it to the next level in our staging a month from now, and I hope you’ll join us.
Bringing a new play to life is exciting, and it is important for the world to know about it. This is why I think that the New Play Map (go find Dearly Beloved on there, I dare you) does an important job in making new work accessible. There can’t be a Humana Festival for every play, but there can be a way to develop and foster the work that is going on in your area. Go see something new around New England this weekend. I can’t wait to swap stories about what you saw!