Kaede describes the New Works Festival!

Kaede / Photo by Kevin Berne

Hi, my name is Kaede and I am the Marketing Intern at TheatreWorks. I would like to announce that TheatreWorks’ 16th Annual New Works Festival is onstage now at the Lucie Stern Theatre!

What is the New Works Festival?

The New Works Festival is an annual theatre festival presented by TheatreWorks. This year, it’s made up of two musicals and three plays, plus some special events. In the festival, each show is seen in the early stages of development: more than a reading but not fully-directed. Therefore, TheatreWorks is able to introduce several newest shows to the community in the short period of the time.

I personally haven’t had a chance to join the Festival in past years. Producing three plays and two musicals at the same time sounds kind of insane to me. I know how much time and effort go into just one great show, from my experience working backstage at Foothill College. However, I have one strong piece of evidence that the Festival provides amazing benefits to both audience and artists: The Four Immigrants: An American Musical Manga.

The Four Immigrants: An American Music Manga just had a very successful world premiere at Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto, after being a part of the 2016 New Works Festival. The tremendous success of The Four Immigrants is in part from appearing in last’s years New Works Festival.

The New Works Festival helps playwrights and directors to create the ideal show. Throughout the festival, they can see how the show would look like on the stage and how the audience would react to their work. They can change or add details and make the show better, based on the audience reaction.

The New Works Festival also benefits to the audience. The Festival is a great opportunity for the audience to explore new trends in American theatre. It is a chance to get familiar with the latest acclaimed shows and find the next level of their favorite shows, playwrights, directors, and actors.

I have read the scripts of the shows which are going to appear in the New Works Festival this year, and I will share a little bit about them.

What musicals will TheatreWorks present in the Festival?

PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE: The Shangri-Las is a musical about the Shangri-Las, an American pop girl group on the 1960s. Their hit songs included “Remember (Walking in the Sand)” and “Leader of the Pack.” The playwright, David Stenn, has written for television from Hill Street Blues to Boardwalk Empire, and has authored two biographies. His documentary, Girl 27, exposed one of Hollywood’s best-suppressed scandals. This musical reveals the Shangri-Las’ mysterious career and end with their timeless music. The musical will be directed by Lisa Peterson.

I had not known about the Shangri-Las, so I used YouTube to listen to their music. It’s sad and dramatic, and is not like any other hit pop song. People say they got popular as a bad girls band from teenagers back in 60s. I can easily imagine how teenagers got into them. I love the musicals based on hit songs such as ABBA’s Mamma Mia, and I am pretty sure this Shangri-Las musical is going to be another successful hit in musical history.

MY MOTHER’S LESBIAN JEWISH WICCAN WEDDING is a comic and touching love story based on David’s mother’s true story. It is a musical valentine to a woman who changed everything in her life, including her family. Irene Sankoff and David Hein are a Canadian married writing team, and their show Come From Away was nominated for seven Tony Awards this year, including Best Musical. The musical will be directed by David Leon Lowenstein.

I loved this musical immediately when I was reading the script. At the same time, I still can’t believe this is based on a real story! The wedding is lesbian, Jewish, and Wiccan, and I have never heard of a wedding like that. Despite the fact that the wedding does not sound like it is going to happen easily, the story is full of fun details. The musical is never dark or sad, but touching and heartwarming. And the music is wonderful, too! No theatre fan should miss this musical.

What plays will TheatreWorks present in the festival?

3 FARIDS is a comic play performed by three Arab American actors. Ramiz Monsef is co-author of the musical The Unfortunates, which was produced at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and ACT in San Francisco. Ramiz himself is an actor as well, and will appear in this show, and he has appeared on TV and in theatres across the country. The show will be directed by Pirronne Yousefzadeh.

Reading the script of 3 Farids was an interesting experience. It was clearly carrying a strong message of people who has suffered from being stereotyped. I had a chance to see Ramiz Monsef’s The Unfortunates, and it was very abstract and attractive. I loved the music, dance, set design, and everything—it was more spectacle than storytelling. I was surprised how the message was portrayed without traditional storytelling. I expect 3 Farids to be like The Unfortunates. I am just so excited to see this on stage.

DEAL WITH THE DRAGON is a one man play written and performed by Kevin Rolston, who has appeared onstage at TheatreWorks several times. The show is about a man who has a roommate who says he is a dragon. It is a dark comedy for mature audience. Deal with the Dragon is developed with and directed by M. Graham Smith.

Recently, the number of the actors on stage is generally getting smaller than ever, which means new plays often have fewer than four actors, who all play several roles in the same show. However, a one man show still sounds like a challenge for me. Although the characters are very charming on the page, I wonder how Kevin Rolston will perform two or three of them at the same time. I am ready to be surprised by Kevin Rolston’s Deal with the Dragon.

TINY HOUSES is a play about Malaysian Airlines Flight MH-17which was shot down over Ukraine in July 2014. The play will show the human drama of people who are in the tiny houses around the glove. Stefanie Zadravec’s work has been produced/developed at several theatres across the country. She is a New Dramatists Resident and recipient of a Helen Merrill Emerging Writer Award, the Francesca Primus prize, and a Helen Hayes Award. Tiny Houses will be directed by Giovanna Sardelli.

The story is based on the true and tragic event of 2014. Although Stefanie Zadravec made it clear that the characters and story of the play is fiction, it is still shocking. The show is focused on normal people in tiny houses and their drama. This play is going to send the audience home with many questions—a great example of how live theatre, even in early stages of development, can impact the audience.

For more information on TheatreWorks Silicon Valley’s 16th Annual New Works Festival, visit theatreworks.org.