STAGE Magazine Interviews Howie Brown, Director of Philadelphia Theatre Workshop’s 4th ANNUAL PLAYSHOP FESTIVAL

by Jim Hilgen

Philadelphia Theatre Workshop continues to be an incubator for Philadelphia playwrights with the 4th Annual PlayShop Festival this spring.  This year’s festival will showcase six new plays in progress from April 29 to May 22, 2011 at the Walnut Street Theatre Studio 5 located at 825 Walnut Street.  Individual tickets cost $10 and a Four-Ticket Festival Pass can be purchased for $30. 

STAGE Magazine’s News Reporter, Jim Hilgen met with Festival Director, Howie Brown and members of the workshop to learn more…

 The 4th Annual PlayShop Festival is a unique and intensive program where playwrights work collaboratively with a director, dramaturg, designers, actors, and audiences over a five-week period to fully develop scripts into plays ready for world premiere productions.  Each performance includes a talkback that allows audience members to give opinions and suggestions to the playwright and director.  Then, the playwright implements some of the suggestions immediately into their scripts, the director and cast rehearse the changes, and finally they test out the new material at a performance later in the festival.

This season’s festival includes Loved Ones by Robin Rodriguez, Reindeer, Magnetosphere by David Strattan White, Seven by Kelsey Amentt, The Ugly Past by Kevin Grauke, A Woman, A Man, A Ravenous Ghost by Gianfranco Rosselli (from the Phila. Young Playwrights), and Thespian Smackdown! by Kathy Anderson.

Loved Ones (directed by James Haskins) introduces us to Crystal who is in search of a life.  She’s seen plenty of lives on TV, in the movies, and on all those cool social networking sites–and now she’d like one of her own.  Fortunately, Crystal has found an agency that provides instant friends and family–for a price. But when her money starts to run out, and the line between fact and fiction becomes blurry, Crystal has to decide which is more costly: to continue with her rented life, or to risk coming up with a “real” one of her own. Loved Ones Cast: Peter Danzig, Mark Knight, Stephanie Lauren, Jennifer MacMillan, and Carl Smith.

In Reindeer, Magnetosphere (directed by Mark Cofta), Rudy and Conner are never invited to join in any reindeer games at Thomas Paine High.  So they find comfort in Mr. Hammel’s Ethical Philosophy class.  When Joseph Willoughby, basketball star, writes “Conner Flowers is a fag” on Mr. Hammel’s board, the teacher wants him suspended.  Yeah, that doesn’t happen.  Instead, Rudy and Conner’s world gets flipped upside down when Rudy decides to take matters into his own hands.  Consequences are a bitch. Reindeer, Magnetosphere Cast: Julian Cloud, Robert Daponte, Will Dennis, Rachel Kitson, Steve Nemphos, and Janice Rowland.

What if you had a chance to change the past?  In Seven (directed by Cara Blouin) Jack gets that elusive chance.  His marriage to Jill has been anything but a fairy tale.  After a heated argument, Jack walks out on his family and is hit by a truck.  The accident breaks more than just Jack’s crown – it puts him in a coma.  The spirit of Jack’s deceased father-in-law implores Jack to go back and fix his marriage.  Waking after seven years, Jack has only seven days to win his wife back and get Jill to tumble after him again.  Seven Cast: Mark Cairns, Theresa Leahy, and Michael McElroy.

In The Ugly Past (directed by Adrienne Mackey) we meet Warren, a successful businessman in New York with a much-younger girlfriend.  Doyle, his long-lost brother, is a playwright with a new play about two young brothers growing up in Texas, one of whom murders their baby sister.  Is the play based on fact?  Or is it fiction?  What about their father?  Did he die in an accident?  Or did he commit suicide?  Myth and memory collide with resentment and revenge in a true case of art imitates life.  Or does it?  The Ugly Past Cast: Greg Bell, Mle’ Chester, Rob Hargraves, Mark Robson, and Mary Sarno.

Philadelphia Young Playwright’s student Gianfranco Rosselli offers a hysterically scary comic ghost story in A Woman, A Man, A Ravenous Ghost (directed by Howie Brown).  This marks fifth time PTW has collaborated with the Philadelphia Young Playwrights program to bring to life the work of one of their remarkably talented students.  A Woman, A Man, A Ravenous Ghost Cast: Hannah Gold, Chris Morse, John Nagy, Tom Saporito, Angela Smith, and Jennifer Slobotkin.

The same cast from Ghost cast creates a new show each night with the Thespian Smackdown! (also directed by Howie Brown).  This is the first time PTW has an improv-based production in the PlayShop Festival.  Based on a game-show format, actors will test their theatre trivia knowledge, dazzle the audience with on-the-spot acting challenges thrown down by the host, and audience members will help determine the winner.  It’s a thrill ride that begins the minute you walk into the theatre and doesn’t let up!

4th Annual PlayShop Festival staff:

Set design by Jim Van Metre

Lighting design by Chris Miller

Costume design by Rebecca Kanach and Amanda Kroll

Sound design by Matthew Lorenz and Leo Zumpetta

Dramaturgy by Kate McGrath and Debra Leigh Scott

Stage management by Jen Weeks and Melody Wong

Individual tickets cost $10 and a Four-Ticket Festival Pass can be purchased for $30.

More information and can be found by visiting:

About Philadelphia Theatre Workshop

Philadelphia Theatre Workshop strives to nurture bright and emerging artists at various stages of their careers. We ignite Philadelphia by spotlighting characters and stories often underrepresented in the broader theatrical world. We are dedicated to reflecting diverse audiences through original, evocative programming. Our focus is world premiere plays by Philadelphia-area playwrights. Philadelphia Theatre Workshop: Making better artists and audiences.

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1 comment

Greg hilgen | Media4teen September 1, 2011 - 5:42 am

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