THE PLAY'S THE THING: Nashville Rep's Playwright-in-Residence Nate Eppler
For almost a year, four up-and-coming playwrights have been coming to Nashville every month to develop new projects - from the initial germination of an idea into new plays that promise to challenge audiences and to provoke thought - as part of Nashville Repertory Theatre's innovative Ingram New Works Project.
Lindsay Joelle, Dean Poynor, Riti Sachdeva and R. Eric Thomas, were chosen for the Ingram New Works Project based on their talent, to be certain, but perhaps most compellingly by their creativity and the play they were hoping would emerge from that very earliest idea. Once a month since September, they have visited the creative team at Nashville Rep, which has become their home away from home, to garner the kind of support they needed - from guidance, actors and play workshops, to the conviviality of meals and downtown adventures shared.
Their shared adventures culminate with the Ingram New Works Festival (which began Wednesday, May 8, with the staged reading of Dean Poynor's The Second Avenue Subway, and will continue through May 18 at Nashville Children's Theatre), when premiere staged readings of their new plays will be presented for audiences over the course of the two-week Festival.
The final weekend will feature the first public reveal of a brand-new play by Sarah Ruhl, this year's Ingram New Works Fellow. Ruhl, whose plays - from Dead Man's Cell Phone and Eurydice to In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play) - have been produced by local theater companies to the acclaim of audiences and critics, alike, is the latest in a long line of notable and award-winning American Playwrights who have served as mentors to the emerging playwrights.
Each of the staged play readings will be followed by a talk-back with the playwright, plus a reception where audiences will get to mingle with fellow arts enthusiasts and professionals after the show.
TONIGHT'S OFFERING: Welcome to the Taj Palace (motel) by Riti Sachdeva. May 10 & 15. On the edge of a highway on the edge of a city, Rajiv runs the Taj Palace (motel). Sita's got business there. Nina's wants to shut it down. Bhagath Singh Thind's been waiting there for decades. And John Wayne just might have the key.
The Ingram New Works Project has put Nashville on the map with the National Theatre community for the quality of new plays that emerge from the Nashville Project, and that have gone on to successful, full productions and have earned critical acclaim.
Today, we continue with our in-depth look at the Ingram New Works Project with a conversation with Nate Eppler, Nashville Rep's playwright-in-residence, whose work with the new playwrights has been an integral part of the experience since it first began. Eppler's new play, This Red Planet, will be given its world premiere production by Nashville Rep during its upcoming 2019-20 season.
What's your reaction to this year's offerings in the Festival? Yeah, so: you definitely need to come see these plays. Having playwrights of this caliber build brand new plays alongside local artists is an extraordinary gift to this city. These five brand new plays are sharp, funny, surprising, and beautifully realized explorations of brand-new worlds. These plays are about the desire to jump into what's next, to face the things we're most afraid of, to tell our own stories, to find new connections, and to finally find the places we belong.
What's the impact of the Project year after year, both locally and nationally? How has it evolved over the years? The original premise of the Ingram New Works Project was that Nashville Rep would help playwrights write the play they were dying to write. Martha Ingram said she believed that new works were the life force of every art form, and it's been our goal to do everything we can to give life to theatre.
Along the way we built a program that expands the creative capacity of Nashville by turning it into a hotbed for new plays, we provided extraordinary opportunities for local artists by inviting them to build new works alongside national voices, and we developed a list of beautiful plays that have gone on to productions all across the country. And while we're very proud of all the awards and accolades and attention, our favorite part has always been that Nashville gets to see it all first.
Why should local audiences come to the festival? The experience is unlike any other in Nashville. It's a great big new play party celebrating new voices, new stories, and new friends. It's your chance to connect with fellow art lovers and theatre-makers while supporting the development of necessary new stories. Plus, this year we've got outer space and John Wayne and witches for starters - how are you gonna miss that?
How has it been working with Sarah Ruhl? Oh, wow: it's exactly how you would expect it to be. She is a brilliant, generous artist. Nashville Rep is incredibly lucky to be working on this brand-new play with her. I can't wait to share it with Nashville.
What does the future hold for the Project? It's our tenth anniversary and we've got surprises in store for sure. I can't tell you about all of them, but I can say that applications for the 2019/20 Ingram New Works Lab will open this month for next season's residencies and This Red Planet developed in the 2017-18 Ingram New Works Lab, will have its world premiere in Nashville in February 2020. Ten years of new plays in Nashville! Can you believe it?
About the Ingram New Works Festival
THE SECOND AVENUE SUBWAY
By Dean Poynor
May 8 & 14
A father tries to teach his son about life and faith as they ride the New York City Subway together over many years - but as the son grows up, they are forced to reckon with the values they once took for granted. Ride along with them and experience their timeless journey to pass on the good and jettison the bad for the next generation.
CRYING ON TELEVISION
By R. Eric Thomas
May 9 & 17
Four strangers; one apartment building; unlimited channels. On the fourth floor, a former reality show contestant tries to start over; on the eighth floor a Miranda Hobbes type waits for transformation; in the lobby an amateur detective solves a mystery. And then there's Mackenzie, who says she's just here to watch.
WELCOME TO THE TAJ PALACE (motel)
By Riti Sachdeva
May 10 & 15
On the edge of a highway on the edge of a city, Rajiv runs the Taj Palace (motel). Sita's got business there. Nina's wants to shut it down. Bhagath Singh Thind's been waiting there for decades. And John Wayne just might have the key.
By Lindsay Joelle
May 11 & 16
A soldier and a translator blast off on a dangerous mission. A messenger and a refugee strike a deal on an alien planet. A mysterious plague and a love letter gone rogue. A dark comedy about the messages we carry in our bones.
Becky Nurse of Salem
By Sarah Ruhl
The great-great-great granddaughter of Rebecca Nurse, a slightly deaf witch hanged in 1692 on Gallow's Hill - which is now a Dunkin' Donuts - struggles with her legacy in this remarkable new play by 2019 Ingram New Works Fellow Sarah Ruhl.
For further details and showtimes for the 2019 Ingram New Works Festival, go to www.nashvillerep.org.