Anna Deavere Smith Kicks Off Philadelphia Theatre's PTC@Play Festival Tonight

Philadelphia Theatre Company's PTC@Play Festival of new work will host a special onstage conversation with PTC's artist-in-residence playwright/performer ANNA DEAVERE SMITH, and two evenings of staged readings by the winners of the Terrence McNally New Play Award, playwrights BILL CAIN and A. ZELL WILLIAMS, all at PTC's home, the Suzanne Roberts Theatre at Broad and Lombard Streets. Admission is free, but reservations are required by calling 215-985-0420.

Anna Deavere Smith will participate in a talk-back lead a discussion tonight, February 26 at 7 PM about the research process for her new play-in-progress, The Pipeline Project, which explores the "school-to-prison pipeline," a national trend where children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. With funding made possible by The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Wyncote Foundation, PTC is hosting a multi-phased residency for Anna Deavere Smith that will include her engaging with our community to research and interview students, teachers, principals, members of the legislature, judiciary, thought leaders, wardens, guards, youth in juvenile hall, police officers and other institutions and to use their videotaped interviews to help her create a new work for the stage. In the coming year, Ms. Smith, in collaboration with PTC, will present a free staged reading of the new work that will serve to build awareness of the schools-to-prison pipeline while also providing support for this developmental phase of her writing. Once the play is finished, PTC anticipates giving the completed script a world premiere production. Philadelphia is one of only four cities across the United States that will be hosting research/residencies for Smith and The Pipeline Project.

Last seen at PTC in her Barrymore-Award winning performance in Let Me Down Easy, in 2011, Anna Deavere Smith is an internationally recognized artist whom President Obama recently awarded the National Endowment of the Humanities Medal. Her ground-breaking body of work, which combines theatrical art, social commentary and journalism, includes Twilight: Los Angeles and Fires in the Mirror.

Television audiences know her from "The West Wing" and as Gloria Akalitus in the hit Showtime Series "Nurse Jackie," as well as film roles in Rachel Getting Married and The American President.

PTC@Play continues with a staged reading of the 2013 Terrence McNally New Play Award winner, The Urban Retreat, by A. Zell Williams, directed by Matt Pfeiffer on Saturday, March 1 at 7PM. The Urban Retreat explores today's views on hip-hop, class, and race in America. The play follows Chaucer Mosley, an unpublished writer and divorcee trapped in his life as a high school teacher. He hopes this will change when he is invited to meet with an ambitious editor. But joy turns to disbelief when he discovers he has been asked to co-author a memoir by a former student-turned-rap-superstar, Trench Deep.

A. Zell Williams is the author of The Audacity, The Biggest Valley, and Carroll Gardens as well as In A Daughter's Eyes and Down Past Passyunk at InterAct Theatre. He is the winner of Marin Theatre Company Emerging American Playwright Prize, NYU's Goldberg Playwriting Award, and National New Play Network's Smith Prize.

PTC@Play concludes on Wednesday, May 7 at 7 PM with a staged reading of American Canvas, by the 2012 Terrence McNally Award-winning playwright, Bill Cain. Thomas Eakins - 19th Century Philadelphia artist-created a painting that he had to sell for less than the cost of the materials. In 2008, Philadelphia spent $68,000,000 for The Gross Clinic - the painting Eakin couldn't give away. What changed in 100 years? In his day, this visionary painter, photographer and teacher was called a provocateur, sexual outlaw and a very dangerous man. His art, a mix of 19th Century restraint and total naked abandon that was provocative, without precedent and even now shocking, changed American art forever -- and changed a $200 canvas into a $68 million dollar masterpiece.

Prior to the play reading, PTC will announce the winner of the 2014 Terrence McNally New Play Award.

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