Castillo Theatre Announces Mario Fratti-Fred Newman Political Play Contest Winners


The Castillo Theatre is presenting four winning scripts from the 2012 Mario Fratti-FrEd Newman Political Play Contest, selected from over 200 entries including submissions by playwrights from around the world. The plays are being directed by distinguished theatre professionals and will be presented on Mondays, August 6, 13, 20 and 27 at 7:00 p.m.

The winners of the 2012 Mario Fratti-FrEd Newman Political Playwriting contest are:

August 6 – Flowers Behind the Mountain by Barbara Bennion, directed by J.J El-Far

In search of a better life, five immigrants from Mexico, Columbia, Guatemala, El Salvador and Chile cross the border to the United States, escaping war, drug and gang violence, and extreme poverty; and leaving their homes and families behind. Their stories are full of compassion and humor, and woven together through poetic monologues, music and dance. Will they make it in the United States, or be defeated by the challenges of discrimination and the discovery that the streets are far from paved with gold?

August 13 – Cottonwood in the Flood by Rich Rubin, directed by Woodie King, Jr.

When the United States entered World War II, it needed ships and needed them fast. Virtually overnight, a gargantuan complex of shipyards sprang up along the coast near Portland, Oregon. Tens of thousands of workers — many from the South and many African American — streamed into the area to build ships. In 1948 a worker city called Vanport was destroyed by a flood. The story of one African-American family brings to vivid and disturbing life a time and place where America’s nobler ideals and its history of racial injustice collided head-on.

August 20 – Being Moved by Stephanie Glass Solomon, directed by Mary Beth Easley

Ellen Stone — a political activist of a certain age — is being kicked out of her downtown Los Angeles apartment. Determined to save herself and her friends from foreclosure, she defies the odds and takes political action, only to find the unintended consequences challenging her beliefs. This serio-comedy is a celebration of romance as an older adult, and an exploration of the ideals and doubts accompanying a life of political activism.

August 27 – dreams heavier than air by Jackie Roberts, directed by David F. Chapman

By 2002, the struggling former mill town of Lewiston, Maine — all white and mostly Roman Catholic — had become home to more Somali refugees than anywhere in the United States. Inciting a national furor, Lewiston’s mayor wrote a letter to the Somali community begging them to stop coming to Maine. Inspired by these events, this tragedy paints a portrait of the town and the struggle of its white working class and Somali Muslims inhabitants to make ends meet — and to live together.

Performances are on Monday evenings; August 6, 13, 20 and 27 at 7:00 p.m. at the Castillo Theatre, 543 West 42nd Street (between 10th & 11th Avenue). Tickets are $10 for adults, students and seniors. Group rates are available. Tickets can be purchased through the Castillo Box Office at 212-941-1234 or at


Barbara Bennion (Flowers Behind the Mountain) was a dancer, choreographer and teacher for many years before turning to playwriting. After performing with the Martha Graham Dance Company she went on to teach at the University of Colorado, Marymount College, and the American Dance Festival. Her plays have been seen in Boston at Playwrights Platform and in New York City at the Stuart and Elizabeth Hodes Black Box Theatre. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild, and the Hudson Valley Writers’ Center.

Jackie Roberts (dreams heavier than air) is a member of blacksmyths, the African American writers collective at the Mark Taper Forum. Her play maids: a fairytale for black women was performed at the Sledgehammer Theater in San Diego. In 2007, Jackie served as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts. She received her graduate degree from the Yale University School of Drama and is currently at work on her one-woman show: A Year of Great Food and Bad Mothering. Her article “Healing Myths from the Ethnic Community, or Why I don't teach August Wilson” was published in Theater Topics, September 2010, John Hopkins University Press.

Rich Rubin (Cottonwood in the Flood) has had plays produced throughout the U. S., including theaters in New York, Chicago, Seattle and Los Angeles. His work has also been staged in Berlin, Sydney, Singapore and the United Kingdom. Rich’s comedy-drama Assisted Living was a co-winner of the Neil Simon Festival’s 2011 New Play Contest and has had recent productions in Oregon and New Mexico. His play Costa Rehab received a production at MTWorks in November 2011, and Marilyn/MISFITS/Miller, was selected as a finalist for the 2011 Julie Harris Playwright Award and was a semifinalist for both the 2011 O’Neill Conference and the 2011 Playwrights First Award of the National Arts Club. Rich is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild of America and Portland’s Nameless Playwrights, a group of Oregon playwrights over the age of sixty.

Stephanie Glass Solomon (Being Moved) is a playwright and a performer. Her plays include: American Voices: Spirit of Revolution (co-author), directed by Dustin Hoffman at the Eli and Edythe Broad Stage, Santa Monica; Blue Heaven, produced at the Westside Mainstage in New York; and radio productions of Manzanar and American Voices (KCRW) and Moving On (WBAI). She wrote and performed the one-woman revues Jazz, Gender and Justice, and The Liberated Chanteuse. She is the co-author of Learning and the Good Life: Reconceiving Adult Education, in Creativity, Spirituality and Transcendence. She has received numerous grants and fellowships including from Nathan Cummings, the American Antiquarian Society and the Cultural Affairs Department, Los Angeles. An emeritus professor at Antioch University, she received the University’s Distinguished Service Award. Stephanie is a member of the Dramatists Guild.


David F. Chapman (dreams heavier than air) has collaborated on new plays with Bekah Brunstetter, Jordan Seavey, Matthew-Lee Erlbach, Jackie Sibblies Drury, Sam Hunter, Lauren Yee, Anna Moench, Philip Dawkins, and others. New York credits include productions at 59E59, Canal Park Playhouse, Joe's Pub, Ars Nova, FringeNYC, NYU, Abingdon, and Theatre Row, as well as readings at the Castillo Theatre, the Lark, NYTW, Playwright's Realm and Studio 42 (where he is a resident artist). Regional/international work includes Millbrook Playhouse (PA), Cape Fear Regional Theatre (NC), World Youth Theatre (Vietnam), Camden People's Theatre and Old Vic/TS Eliot Exchange (London), and the Edinburgh and Montreal fringe fests. David has assistant directed on and Off-Broadway and regionally, including the Public, MTC, LTC, Playwrights Horizons, Primary Stages, and Chicago Shakespeare. He has received Luce and Fulbright scholarships for theatre work abroad, as well as the Drama League and Jonathan Alper Fellowships. He is an alumnus of DirectorsLabChicago, the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab, and The Civilians R&D Group. David is also the director of the Orchard Project's apprentice program, Core Company. Upcoming work: Bekah Brunstetter's Miss Lilly Gets Boned (Ice Factory / Studio 42), Anna Moench's Untitled Freegan Play (NYU Grad Acting), Jordan Seavey's Listening For Our Murderer (NYTW workshop at Dartmouth), and Dorothy Fortenberry's Partners (P73 workshop at Yale).

Mary Beth Easley (Being Moved) has had her work featured at the New Federal Theatre, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Circle Rep, the Women’s Project, and La Mama E.T.C., to name a few. In March of this year she directed the New York premiere of Jeffrey Sweet’s Court-Martial at Fort Devins, co-produced by Woodie King’s New Federal Theatre and the Castillo Theatre. She has directed the off-Broadway premiere of Levy Lee Simon’s God, the Crackhouse and the Devil at La MaMa, the New York premiere of Mr. Simon’s Caseload at WorkShop Theater Company, and she collaborated with Mr. Simon and composer-lyricist Mark Bruckner on Same Train, which was featured at the 2011 National Black Theater Festival. She also directed Krasang Tree, based on the work of Poet U Sam Oeur, at Theatre de la Jeune Lune in Minneapolis. A recipient of a Revson Directing Fellowship, Ms. Easley is currently the artistic director for the CUNY – Brooklyn College department of theater, and a professor in its acting program.

J.J. El-Far (Flowers Behind the Mountain) is an Arab-American producer, director, and interdisciplinary artist based in Harlem. She is founding executive director of Hybrid Theatre Works, a network of theater artists engaging in cultural diplomacy through international exchange and innovative theatrical events, and the founding creative director of the multi-disciplinary Harlem Arts Festival. She is a core team member of Theatre Without Borders — with whom she helped produce the “Acting Together on the World Stage” conferences at Brandeis University and La MaMa, — and the contributing theater critic for Uptownflavor. J.J. has worked with Ted X Harlem, LaGuardia Performing Arts Center, the NY Arab American Comedy Festival, Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, Berkshire Theatre Festival, and the Jerash Festival of Arts and Culture (Amman, Jordan). She has presented at the "Arts in the One World" conference at Brown University, was recently selected as one of TCG’s Young Leaders of Color for the 2012 TCG Conference, and attended the 2010 La MaMa International Symposium for Directors in Umbria, Italy.

Woodie King, Jr. (Cottonwood in the Flood) is the founder and producing director of New Federal Theatre, which has presented over 200 productions in its 39-year history. His directing credits include work in film as well as theater. At Castillo, he directed Mr. Hirsch Died Yesterday last season. He has directed at the Cleveland Playhouse, Stage West, Virginia Museum Theatre, Pittsburgh Public Theatre, Cincinnati Playhouse, Northlight Theatre, New Federal Theatre, The Ensemble Studio, Arena Stage, Geva Theatre, American Place Theatre, Jomandi Theatre, Center Stage of Baltimore, Indiana Repertory Company, Studio Arena in Buffalo, New York Shakespeare Festival, Billie Holiday Theatre, St. Louis Black Repertory Theatre, and Crossroads Theatre Company. In 1985 he was nominated for a Joseph Jefferson Award for Boseman and Lena, and in the 1987/88 season he won a NAACP Image Award for directing Checkmates at Inner City Cultural Center (Los Angeles). In 1988 he directEd Checkmates on Broadway. In 1987 he directed Charles Dutton in Splendid Mummer at American Place Theatre; in 1990, God’s Trombones at the Ford’s Theatre, and Joe Turner’s Come and Gone at Detroit Rep. In 1991/92 he directed A Raisin in the Sun and The Member of the Wedding, both at GeVa. He directed Good Black Don’t Crack and Love and Marriage and New York City at the Billie Holiday Theatre in Brooklyn, and produced and directed Robert Johnson: Trick The Devil, for which he won 1993 AUDELCO Awards for Best Director and Best Play of the Year. In 1994 he directed A Raisin in the Sun, starring Esther Rolle and Kenny Leon, at The ALLIANCE THEATRE in Atlanta. In 2006 he directed Angels in America: Millennium Approaches at Ohio State University and The Piano Lesson at Tennessee Repertory Theatre in Nashville. He wrote and directed the documentary The Black Theatre Movement: “A Raisin in the Sun” to the Present, which aired on public television in 1979. A collection of his essays, Black Theater: Present Condition, was published in 1981, and his book The Impact of Race: Theater and Culture was published in 2003. He has been a visiting professor at Oberlin College, Florida State University, Ohio State University, Yale University, Penn State, North Carolina A&T, Columbia, NYU, Hunter, and Brooklyn College. He was a 2011 inductee into the Theatre Hall of Fame and is the recipient of an Obie Award for Sustained Achievement, a TCG Peter Zeisler Award, AEA’s Paul Robeson Award and Rosetta LeNoire Award, and the Aimé Césaire Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as honorary doctorates from Wayne State University, the College of Wooster; Lehman College and John Jay College of Criminal Justice.


Mario Fratti is an internationally acclaimed playwright and drama critic. Author of such works as Obama 44, Suicide, The Cage, The Return, The Academy, Mafia, Races, and The Bridge, he is best known for his musical Nine (inspired by Fellini’s famous film, 81/2) which in its original production in 1982 won the O’Neill Award, the Richard Rodgers Award, two Outer Critics Circle Awards, eight Drama Desk Awards and five Tony Awards; and in the 2003 revival, won three Outer Critics Circle Awards and two Tony Awards. Fratti was a recipient of the Otto René Castillo Award for Political Theatre in 2000. Fratti’s nearly seventy plays have received some 600 productions in two dozen countries and have been translated into many languages. Fratti was born in Italy, but has been living in New York City since 1963. In addition to his writing achievements, he also serves as New York drama critic for nine European newspapers, and is a professor emeritus of Italian literature at Hunter College.

FrEd Newman was a philosopher, psychotherapist, political strategist, and the author of over 40 postmodern political plays and musicals. Newman designed and directed most of his work at the Castillo Theatre, which he founded, and where he served as artistic director from 1989 to 2005 and was playwright-in-residence until his death in 2011. In addition to being staged at Castillo, Newman’s plays have been produced by the New Federal Theatre, at both the Philadelphia and San Francisco Fringe Festivals and at six of the annual meetings of the American Psychological Association. Newman produced and directed the work of many leading playwrights and performance artists. One of the foremost American directors of the plays of the late Heiner Müller, Newman directed nine productions of Müller’s texts, including the American premiere of Germania 3 Ghosts at Dead Man in 2001.

In 1995 Newman directed Aimé Césaire’s A Season in the Congo, later chosen for presentation at the international SERMAC theatre festival, held in Fort de France, Martinique, 1996. Newman’s 2000 production of Peter Weiss’ masterpiece Marat/Sade was nominated for the “Best of the Fest” at the Midtown InterNational Theatre Festival. In 1993, the play Billie & Malcolm: A Demonstration, written and directed by Newman, was nominated for five AUDELCO awards for excellence in Black theatre, including nominations for best play and best director. Newman’s feature film Nothing Really Happens (Memories of Aging Strippers), which he wrote and directed, stars Living Theatre founder Judith Malina. It was released in 2003 and garnered four film festival awards.

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