The Music Theater Conference will present readings of two musicals, The Nightingale and Sarah, Plain and Tall. The Nightingale is a retelling of the classic Hans Christian Andersen story about a Chinese emperor, a servant girl, and a mechanical nightingale; it features book and lyrics by Steven Sater and music by Duncan Sheik, and will run August 2-10. Sarah, Plain and Tall is an adaptation of Patricia MacLachlan's book about a woman who revitalizes a Kansas family too long in mourning, with a book by Julia Jordan, lyrics by Nell Benjamin, and music by Laurence O'Keefe; it will run August 2-9. The creators of both musicals will also participate in a behind-the-scenes discussion titled "Book! Lyrics! Music!" on Tuesday, August 5.
The plays selected for the Playwrights Conference this year include Stephen Belber's A Small, Melodramatic Story (July 4-5), about a woman's search for truth in the face of too much information; Cusi Cram's Fuente (July 4-5), the story of a desolate desert town changed when two of its residents leave; Gina Gionfriddo's After Ashley (July 5-6), about a young man whose mother's death leads his father to fame; Irma Mayorga's Cascarones (July 8-9), a study of a young woman's attempts to reconcile her Mexican-American family's life; Sheri Wilner's Father Joy (July 10-11), which concerns a May-December relationship between a student and her professor, as well as a father's love for his daughter; Sherry Shephard-Massat's Deeds (July 11-12), about a prison inmate who, on Christmas Eve, explores the relationship he had with his brother; Susan Bernfield's Barking Girl (July 12-13), about a woman who must discover the true meaning of motherhood and responsibility; Lisa Dillman's Rock Shore (July 15-16), set in a tuberculosis residency where a glamorous newcomer may change people's lives and outlooks forever; Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's Dark Matters (July 17-18), about a father and son who try to locate their missing mother and find much more than they bargained for; Bill Irwin's Mr. Fox: A Rumination (July 18-19), concerning the life of George L. Fox, America's first celebrity clown; and Dominic Leggett's Smoking Kills (July 19-20), about a radical medical treatment during a war that brings a British soldier and an Iraqi doctor together.
The Playwrights Conference will also help support the work of three writers in residence: Laura Maria Censabella, Christine Jones, and Adam Rapp. Censabella's play Three Italian Women deals with three generations of Italian women and the effect World War II had on their lives; Theatre For One is a new performance space designed by Christine Jones for one actor and one audience member (this piece will not have a public performance); and Rapp's Gompers tells the story of a town devastated by the closing of a steel mill but offered hope by a casino boat, a golden greyhound, and a blue Jesus.
The Playwrights Conference will also include an "All Conference Series" of lunchtime speakers, including playwrights Lee Blessing, Ed Bullins, and Paula Vogel; Ben Cameron, executive director of the Theatre Communications Group; director David Esbjornson; and composer Willy Schwartz. For more information about any or all of the events described above, visit www.theoneill.org or call 860-443-5378.