Previews: FALL FESTIVAL OF NEW WORKS at Theatre Artists Workshop

An evening of bite-size shows

By: Oct. 02, 2023
Previews: FALL FESTIVAL OF NEW WORKS at Theatre Artists Workshop

Outside New York City, it is Connecticut that has almost an embarrassment of riches when it comes to theater. Forty years ago, a group of actors, writers and directors, including Keir Dullea and his late wife Susie Fuller, founded Theatre Artists Workshop as a place where they could experiment and cultivate new works, hone their skills, and work with their peers in a place that is safe from the glare of the public spotlight. Still thriving after 40 years, Theatre Arts Workshop continues to fulfill its original mission as a home to professionals in the performing arts and audiences who love both discovering new works and exploring classic and contemporary plays.

To celebrate this achievement, Theatre Artists Workshop will hold its first in-person Fall Festival of New Works since COVID. The festival, which will take place on the weekend of October 7th and 8th, will feature nine bite-size appetizers of comedy, drama, movement, song, and spoken word by members of the Theatre Artists Workshop. It’s a perfect introduction—or for many a return—to Theatre Artists Workshop performances.

The production begins with Vivian Sorvall’s “Bork & Odil,” with Barbara Distinti and Dan Remmes as two Vikings attempting to grapple with the changing world of 1000 AD. “The Environmentalist,” written by Andrea Lynn Green, features Green, Chelsea Carpenter, Linde Gibb, and Larry Greeley about a couple on summer vacation who find more than they bargained for when confronting a stranger littering on the beach. Dorothy Parker’s “The Waltz’ is adapted with memoir and movement by Susan Jacobson. It explores the theme of what it means to be a woman, past, present and future. “Snack Time” by Nina Mansfield is a dramedy about a novice kindergarten teacher (Elizabeth Simmons) who walks into the office of the principal (Kimberly Squires) to complain about a woman breastfeeding in the playground. “Painadda Sonadda,” by Lisa McCree, is about the pain and vengeance of an African-American mother (played by Kimberly Wilson) following the wrongful killing of her 16-year-old son by a police officer.

The second act opens with Dan Remmes’s “Welcome Back,” which explores the question of who is nuttier—the psychiatrist or her patient, played by Laura Warfield and Molly Garbe Brown, respectively. Warfield takes a turn as playwright and songwriter for “Lord Have Mercy,” featuring Emilie Roberts as a woman down on her luck, tossed from a bar and yearning for a change. Jack Rushen’s “In the Beginning” reimagines the Book of Genesis via an intense meeting between a Chief of Staff (Sean Hannon) and his Boss (a.m. bhatt). In Lisa McCree’s “The Artifact,” a professor (Lawrence Winslow) hires a museum curator (Jacqueline Brown) to find a rare African-American artifact for the grand opening of his art space.

There’s tremendous short-form variety packed into this production.  Member Dan Remmes compared it to New England weather. “If something’s not to your liking, wait ten minutes.” But it’s unlikely such a wait will be necessary. There’s an adage that there are no small roles, only small actors, and the professional performers affiliated with Theatre Arts Workshop are members of Actors Equity and other career organizations, many of them familiar faces to area theatergoers. The festival is a rare opportunity to watch them bring magic to the stage.

For 40 years, plays developed at the Theatre Artists Workshop have gone on to Broadway, Off-Broadway, Regional and even international productions. Workshop performance and constructive critique have improved members’ skills and led to new opportunities. Audiences have attended readings of classic and original plays, scenes and stories at the workshop, local libraries, and other places that are conducive to cultural events.

The company partners with the storied Westport Country Playhouse for meeting and rehearsal space. It also partners with Housatonic Community College Theatre Department for meetings and to develop programs where theatre students can sit in and learn from professionals. Remmes notes that, “A lot can change in forty years—but the group remains true to its very unique mission while continuing to evolve and diversify.” Not to mention offer fresh, innovative, unique, and eclectic experiences.

The Westport Community Theater is the sponsor and host of The Fall Festival of New Works at 110 Myrtle Avenue in Westport on Saturday, October 7th at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, October 8th at 2:00 p.m. To reserve a seat in advance, tickets are $25 and can be purchased at Click Here.

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