Portland Stage Announces 28th Annual Little Festival of the Unexpected

Portland Stage Announces 28th Annual Little Festival of the Unexpected

Portland Stage mounts the annual Little Festival of the Unexpected with new play workshops from May 10 through May 13, 2017. Little Festival is a week-long event dedicated to public readings of new American plays. Three playwrights are in residence at Portland Stage throughout the week developing their scripts with input from actors, directors, dramaturgs, and audience members.

All readings are open to the public at a $10 suggested donation. All festival events from May 10-13 will be held in the Studio Theater, Portland Stage's 75-seat black box theater, at 25A Forest Avenue. For reservations, call the Portland Stage Box Office at 207.774.0465.

"Little Festival of the Unexpected has been at the heart of Portland Stage's commitment to presenting new plays for the past twenty-seven years" says Anita Stewart, Executive & Artistic Director of Portland Stage. "In that time span, we've brought so many scripts developed at the festival to our Mainstage, and developed relationships with playwrights who are doing exciting work here and around the country. It's an unparalleled way for Maine audiences to see new plays taking shape first-hand, and I can't wait to see where this year's plays and writers will take us next."

Since its debut in 1990, the Little Festival of the Unexpected has established a tradition of nurturing artists, invigorating audiences, and exploring new voices, new visions and new forms of theater. Bringing playwrights together for the week-long festival builds a creative incubator for developing new ideas. Often, the writers are hearing their play performed by a company of professionals for the first time. Little Festival audiences are encouraged to delve into the creative process by sharing their feedback with the artists during open discussions following each reading.


2017 LITTLE FESTIVAL OF THE UNEXPECTED PLAYS:

The Niceties by Eleanor Burgess

In this riveting two-person drama, Zoe, a biracial student, and Janine, her white professor, meet to discuss their differing views on Zoe's paper about slavery and the American Revolution. This polite clash of ideas soon landslides into an explosive discussion of race, history, privilege, and social justice.

Sex and Other Disturbances by Marisa Smith

Join us for the world premiere of New England playwright Marisa Smith's latest play. Sarah's husband is obsessed with the collapse of Western civilization. On a search for happiness and escape, she unexpectedly finds herself having a little affair, wondering, "What's the harm?" Sarah finds out the hard way in this fast-paced comedy about friendship, love, sex, and other disturbances.

Refuge/Malja by Bess Welden with translations by Ali Al-Mshakheel

Jamie, a Jewish-American photojournalist, calls up an old friend, Ibrahim, in the middle of the night to discuss translating a message into Arabic. What she hesitates to tell Ibrahim is that the message is for a young Syrian refugee she's met who just might be the son she never had-or the grandfather she never knew-in this decade-spanning drama about the malja (refuge) we all search for.

LITTLE FESTIVAL OF THE UNEXPECTED PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE: May 10-13:

Wed. May 10th, 7:00 pm
Sex & Other Disturbances by Marisa Smith
directed by Nadia Tass

Thursday May 11th, 7:00 pm
Refuge/Malja by Bess Welden with translations by Ali Al-Mshakheel
directed by Sally Wood

Friday May 12th, 7:00 pm
The Niceties by Eleanor Burgess
directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian

Saturday May 13th, 12:30 pm
Sex & Other Disturbances by Marisa Smith

directed by Nadia Tass

Saturday May 13th, 3:30 pm
Refuge/Malja by Bess Welden with translations by Ali Al-Mshakheel
directed by Sally Wood

Saturday May 13th, 7:30 pm
The Niceties by Eleanor Burgess
directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian

ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT:

Eleanor Burgess' (The Niceties) plays include The Niceties, Start Down, Chill, and These Dying Generations. Her work has been developed or produced at Manhattan Theatre Club, Ensemble Studio Theatre, ALLIANCE THEATRE, Huntington Theatre Company, the Contemporary American Theatre Festival, Merrimack Repertory Theatre, Portland Stage Company, Centenary Stage Company, the Lark Play Development Center, the Kennedy Center/NNPN MFA Playwrights Workshop, Everyday Inferno, Ryder Farm and Luna Stage. She's been the recipient of the Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Award, an EST/Sloan commission, a Keen Teens Commission, and the Susan Glaspell Award for Women Playwrights. She grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts, studied history at Yale College, and recently completed the M.F.A in Dramatic Writing at NYU/Tisch.

Marisa Smith (Sex and Other Disturbances) Marisa Smith is an award winning American playwright. Full-length plays include: Saving Kitty (Eliot Norton award for Jennifer Coolidge Best Actress), and Mad Love (Northern Stage, New Jersey Repertory) which is also an audio drama produced by Wondery called The Defenestrator. Marisa's 10-Minute plays have been produced in the Boston Marathon of 10- Minute Plays, Barrington Stage in and in many other theaters around the country. Screenplays: Second Wind and Surprise Engagement for producer/director Andrew Silver starring English actors June Brown, Harriet Walter and Tamzin Merchant, and Tamzin Outhwaite. A graduate of Wesleyan University, Marisa is also the co-Publisher and owner of Smith and Kraus Publishers.

Bess Welden (Refuge/Malja) is a Portland-based writer, performer, and educator. Refuge/Malja started as a short play selected for the 2016 Maine Playwrights Festival. Her play, Death Wings, was a semi-finalist for The Bridge Initiative's 2016 Playwright Award and recently received a workshop reading by Real Live Theatre in Northampton, MA. In 2015 her one-act Madelines premiered in Portland Stage's Studio Series, and her youth theater script Magic in the Attic premiered at Theatre LJCC in Birmingham, AL. She has toured extensively with her two solo comedies, Big Mouth Thunder Thighs and The Passion of the Hausfrau both of which were developed through Little Festival of the Unexpected. Next month, Legbala is a River, Bess' multi-layered theater performance piece featuring live music and illustration, will premiere at Mayo Street Arts. She has co-written and performed four other solo plays and is the librettist of two musical works, A Little Miracle (Lincoln Center premiere) and Eagle Girl, composed by David Stock. www.besswelden.com.

Ali Al-Mshakheel (Refuge/Malja) worked in media relations and outreach for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq before he and his family left Baghdad, Iraq in 2014. He had previously been a producer for ABC News reporting on events throughout Iraq; editor of news and feature stories for Aswat Al-Iraq web based News agency; and reporter and interpreter for The Times of London and Asahi Shimbun. Mr. Al-Mshakheel is now Parent Community Specialist (Arabic speaking families) for the Multilingual Multicultural Center/ Portland Public Schools and a freelance journalist writing on political, economic, social, and cultural topics. He and his wife and three children live in Portland.

As the leading professional theater in Northern New England, Portland Stage is committed to creating great art, passionate about using the theater to educate, and dedicated to enriching our community. Founded in 1974 as the Profile Theater, Portland Stage today serves an annual audience of 50,000 people through mainstage performances and educational programs with a balance of classics and new works for the stage.

The audience Portland Stage serves is as diverse as the population of New England, and the theater seeks to stimulate the imaginations of our community with equally diverse programs. Portland Stage offers encouragement and inspiration to playwrights by hosting the Little Festival of the Unexpected and the Clauder Competition for New England playwrights. Together, these programs bring some of the freshest and most innovative voices writing for the American theater to Portland.

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