Back Story is a dramatic anthology co-written by 18 playwrights including Craig Lucas, Constance Congdon, Edwin Sanchez, Neena Beber, Donald Margulies, Shirley Lauro, Eduardo Machado and the mysterious Jane Martin. Based on the storyline created by Joan Ackermann (Batting Cage). The pieces work together as an episodic play for young actors or separately as monologues and dialogues.
Joan Ackermann (Playwright/Back Story/Time to Think and Norman Rockwell's Thanksgiving in the Year 2000)
"Jon (Jory) and Michael (Bigelow Dixon) asked me to create a narrative about an older sister, a younger brother and a momentous (non-incestuous) occasion in their lives, so I went to lie in my hammock to think. I chose to make it about small moments in ordinary lives--the two characters Ainsley and Ethan (each played by 11 different actors) are blue-collar kids from Pittsfield, PA. And I also wrote the first and last scenes, to launch the piece and then to tie it up." (Back Story was created, in part, as a way of insuring an audience for the annual Humana apprentice presentation and it did just that.)
David Ives (Playwright/Arabian Nights, directed by Jon Jory)
"I'd love to talk but my mother's here. Call me in New York." I did, and we created our own phone play together:
Ives: I loved the Festival, and I'm so sorry that I came in the front door as Jon was running out the back. Every city, town and gas station should have a Festival like this every two weeks, especially with those three gorgeous theaters. They also treat playwrights like royalty--everything but the sedan chair! I loved the variety offered by such a smorgasbord of plays-my favorites were Big Love and Anton in Love.
Blake: So did your mother enjoy the Festival?
Ives: Oh yes.
Blake: Where did she come in from?"
Ives: She drove in from Chicago. It took seven hours, but to a hearty mid-Westerner, that's a little jaunt.
Okay, I didn't say it would be a Humana-caliber phone play. (Ives' amusing ten-minute play turns the banal words of two very ordinary people into something exotic, courtesy of a genie translator.)
Neena Beber (Playwright/Back Story/The Reluctant Instrument)
"This is my second time at Louisville [her ten minute play Misreadings in '96 was very well received] and I had such a good time before, that I wanted to come back, especially since it's Jon's last year. The Humana's like a cross between a market place and adult camp, but I'm not sure about my Humana career. I've gone from a ten-minute play to a page in Back Story--maybe next year they'll ask me to write a word. Actually, I want to suggest 'mug' plays to go along with the T(EXT) Shirts and the Phone Plays." (Beber's "page" has Ainsley in love with her oboe teacher and begins, "I learned how to kiss on the clarinet...but I learned how to love on the oboe.")
Charles L. Mee (Playwright/Big Love)
"I was commissioned to do whatever I liked for the Festival, that in some way celebrated the millennium. So I based Big Love on a concept from the oldest known surviving play in the Western World (The Suppliant Women, part of a trilogy by Aeschlylus). Usually I just give a play to the director, leave town and come back on opening night, but I've been down here this past week, to see if it needed work. Now, I'm just enjoying the actors." (Big Love shared unofficial "Favorite of the Festival" status with Jane Martin's satiric Anton in Love.)
Carolyn Baeumler (Actress/Big Love)
"This is my second trip to the Humana in two years and I'm thrilled to be in an epic like this. The language is so beautiful, like modern Shakespeare. If the other two parts of the Aeschylus original hadn't been lost, Greek society might have been based on love instead of justice. The nudity [she enters, strips and gets into a tub within the first 15 seconds of the play] was never a problem. In fact, the whole opening is ironic for me, because I understudied Blanche (Elizabeth Marvel) in the New York Theatre Workshop Streetcar, and had to strip and fall into a tub several times during that run." (Baeumler also recently starred as Mae West in the revival of West's 1926 play Sex, along with T Ryder Smith, who plays her fiancé in Big Love.)
Regina Taylor (Playwright/Phone Play Beside Every Good Man/ recipient of the 2000 ATCA/Steinberg Award, including a $15,000 check for Oo-Bla-Dee.)
On winning her award: "This is confirmation of the leap of faith I took to write." On the Humana Fest: "It's a place I always felt was right for me, it's very nurturing. I always wanted to be a writer and my first professional production was here in 1992--two one-acts, Jennine's Diaryand Watermelon Rinds, collectively titled Various Small Fires." (Taylor's Beside Every Good Man is an apochryphal phone call between Winnie Mandela and Coretta Scott King.)
Jeffrey Hatcher (playwright/Phone Play Show Business/recipient of the ATCA/Steinberg New Play Citation, including a $5000 check for Complete Female Stage Beauty.)
Standing on stage before Saturday night's play: "You thought you were seeing Touch (by Toni Press-Coffman) tonight, and this (indicating the awards presentation) is the way the show starts." (Hatcher's Phone Play is a wickedly funny conversation between a ticket buyer and a ticketing operator with an attitude.)
Tina Howe (playwright/The Divine Fallacy, directed by Jon Jory)
"This is my first time in Louisville and I had been despairing the theater of late, but this trip has restored my faith. I was invited to write a ten-minute play and I'm usually interested in a larger landscape, so I used this as an exercise. Like all my plays, I'm writing about myself. Dorothy is an awkward, self-defensive writer who suffers the pain of an hermetic artist, when she must have her photo taken for a book jacket. Of course, within the piece, there's a major reversal. I am deeply neurotic and I celebrate it. I've been known to give notes right up to closing and Jon and the actors have indulged me." (Howe's ugly duckling takes a swipe at a swan in Divine Fallacy
Bruce Weber (New York Times Off-Broadway critic)
"It's a great concept to be able to come for a weekend and see eight shows in three days, even if it is kind of exhausting. The staff is thoughtful and efficient and the whole Festival is run beautifully, but I've just seen eight shows in three days..." (Weber's review praised Anton in Love, Big Love and War of the Worlds, while decrying the Festival's sub-theme of rape in four of the weekend's works.)
Timothy Busfield (actor/The West Wing)
"I acted at ATL 25 years ago, and I just came back to see some good theater. ATL is a testament to Jon Jory and I just hope, whoever gets the job, that Louisville audiences will allow his or her own vision to emerge." (AMEN!)