100+ Actors Employed In Online Theatre Fest Staged By PlayGround

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100+ Actors Employed In Online Theatre Fest Staged By PlayGround

PlayGround, San Francisco's premier theatre development lab, is hosting the nation's largest fully digital new play festival PlayGround Zoom Fest presented May 11 through June 14, 2020.

This five-week online event gathers leading voices in American Theatre including Lauren Yee, Jonathan Spector, Aaron Loeb, Geetha Reddy, Kent Nicholson, acclaimed actors, theatre journalists, designers, and more from across the country, to present and discuss a panoply of new works and celebrate PlayGround's quarter-century anniversary. Coordinated under a groundbreaking agreement with SAG-AFTRA, this livestreamed festival will provide paid #FairWage employment for more than 140 actors, all suffering work lost due to the COVID-19 crisis.

While many performers have seen their stage and film careers evaporate in recent weeks, and playwrights and designers have lost their income sources while stage productions are put on hold, PlayGround has forged ahead to commission new works and gainfully employ actors and designers from across the country to create content for this unprecedented event. PlayGround Zoom Fest transforms PlayGround's popular Festival of New Works into an online program of more than 30 real-time livestreamed performances, including three fully-produced Zoom Premiere Presentations, as well as readings of new works, films, and roundtables, for more than 50 distinct offerings.

Most performances are FREE to the public, with tickets for the Zoom Premiere Presentations offered as low as $15. For a complete schedule, link to reserve access to streaming events, and purchase tickets to Zoom Premiere Presentations, visit playground-sf.org/zoomfest or call (415) 992-6677. (See full schedule at the end of this press release.)

PlayGround Zoom Fest kicks off May 11 and May 18 with two programs of short plays featuring works by Jonathan Spector, Aaron Loeb, Martha Soukup, Linda Amayo-Hassan, Genne Murphy, Cleavon Smith, Tom Swift, Cass Brayton, Nicole Jost, Robin Lynn Rodriguez, Kirk Shimano, and Nic A. Sommerfeld.

The festival will also feature three fully-produced works (digitally presented with production elements and actors off-script) making their Zoom Premieres: Disbelief by Garret Jon Groenveld (May 30 & 31), The Rendering Cycle by Genevieve Jessee (June 6 & 7), and Best of PlayGround 24 (June 13 & 14), a collection of 10-minute plays developed in the 2019-20 reading series that will receive their Zoom Premieres in the festival. These plays, which cover everything from sausage-shipping to Michael Jordan's love of baseball, were written by Tom Bruett, Melissa Keith, Martha Soukup, Addie Ulrey, Leela Velautham, and Christian Wilburn.

Among the dozens of festival presentations throughout the two months, celebrating PlayGround's 25th Anniversary and with generous underwriting from the City of San Francisco's Grants for the Arts, are Zoom readings of hit works from PlayGround's vibrant history. These readings include the critically-acclaimed audience favorites First Person Shooter by Aaron Loeb (May 15), Safe House by Geetha Reddy (May 16), Lolita Road Trip by Trevor Allen (May 17), Abominable by Katie May (May 22), 1980 or Why I'm Voting for John Anderson by Patricia Cotter (May 23) and Anna Considers Mars by Ruben Grijalva (May 24).

PlayGround Zoom Fest will also offer a glimpse of tomorrow's hits with developmental staged readings of new full-length plays by PlayGround alumni including Translations by Victoria Chong Der (May 25), Sapience by Diana Burbano (May 29) Burst by Rachel Bublitz (June 1), and The Nesting Instinct by Tom Bruett (June 5). The festival will also offer a look at the playwrights of the future, with performances from PlayGround's 12th annual Howard & Lenore Klein Young Playwrights Project (June 12).

In addition, favorites from previous PlayGround Film Festivals will be streamed, with short films offering such intriguing titles as Meeting Matt Damon, Reading in Bed, Miss Finknagle Succumbs to Chaos, and The Secret Life of a Hotel Room. The 15 films, all originally premiering at the PlayGround Film Festival and celebrating the intersection of storytelling and digital media, will be rescreened via Zoom over four nights (May 13, 14, 20, 21). The films include works by Liz Anderson, Jennifer Arzt, Ron Burch, Bruce Coughran, Ruben Grijalva, Garret Jon Groenveld, Amy Harrison, Daniel Heath, Mark Leialoha, Frieda de Lackner, Jonathan Luskin, Katie May, Sean Owens, Ken Prestininzi, Seth Podowitz, Kenn Rabin, Geetha Reddy, Greg Runnels, Mark Runnels, Diane Sampson, Kirk Shimano, Jeremy Solterbeck, Tom Swift, Brian Tolle, Malachy Walsh, Sandor Weiner, and Alex Vietti. Each program will provide the opportunity for audience interaction, including a post-screening panel discussion with filmmakers and writers.

PlayGround Zoom Fest will feature a Zoom Town Hall panel (June 8) discussing theatre's past, present, and future, featuring leading voices of the American Theatre including Lauren Yee, Lily Janiak, Aaron Loeb, Geetha Reddy, Ruben Grijalva, Rinabeth Apostol, Christian Wilburn, Jeunee Simon, and Diana Burbano. A closing night virtual cast and dance party will bring the digital festival to a close on June 14.

In tandem with the PlayGround Zoom Fest and the 25th Anniversary Celebration, PlayGround has also launched a special 25th Anniversary Campaign with a goal of raising $250,000 in support of three key priorities, more critical than ever before in light of the current crisis: artist compensation, artistic innovation, and performance facilities (including digital broadcast capabilities and a new pop-up Second Stage). This multi-year fundraising campaign will enable PlayGround to increase its investments in artists and art-making at this key moment when many organizations are pulling back and many artists are unemployed. To date, PlayGround has already received pledges and/or gifts towards this initiative totaling more than $100,000. For more information about the 25th Anniversary Campaign, contact PlayGround Artistic Director Jim Kleinmann at jim@playground-sf.org or call (415) 992-667.

The Festival lineup is as follows:

ZOOM PREMIERES - FULL-LENGTH PLAYS:

DISBELIEF

By Garret Jon Groenveld

Directed by Tracy Ward

5/30 @ 8pm • 5/31 @ 5pm

Disbelief is a #MeToo retelling of the Cassandra myth - Apollo's gift of prophecy to Cassandra, from her point of view, examining how women are perceived, controlled, and disbelieved (or dismissed). Groenveld's scintillating language explores the parallels of belief in a higher power, with belief in a powerful man, versus a woman being able to be believed at all.

Garret Jon Groenveld (Playwright) is a poet and playwright living in San Francisco, CA with an MFA in Poetry and an MA in Playwriting from San Francisco State University. His plays include Missives, The Hummingbirds, and The Empty Nesters, among others. A PlayGround founding writer and current resident playwright, his work has been produced in the Bay Area, New York, and internationally in connection with the Internationalists Prize. He is a past resident playwright of Playwrights Foundation and proud member of the Dramatists Guild.

THE RENDERING CYCLE

By Genevieve Jessee

Directed by Margo Hall

6/6 @ 8pm • 6/7 @ 5pm

In the spirit of August Wilson's The Pittsburgh Cycle, The Rendering Cycle explores the African American experience through ten interwoven short plays depicting a saga of inextricable tradition, trauma and joy across continents and characters ranging from present-day United States to West Africa of a millennium past.

Genevieve Jessee (Playwright) is based jointly in the Bay Area and Puerto Rico. She received her MFA in Playwriting from Boston University. Her work has been staged at PlayGround, The Source Festival, Atlanta Black Theatre Festival, SF Fringe, Those Women Productions, and the Festival de Marseille, France. She is a semi-finalist for the 2019 O'Neill National Playwrights Conference. She has received commissions from PlayGround and Planet Earth Arts and is the recipient of a California Arts Council Artists-in-Communities grant for her work on The Rendering Cycle.

ZOOM PREMIERES - BEST OF PLAYGROUND 24:

10-Minute Plays

6/13 @ 8pm • 6/14 @ 5pm

AGENT OF CHANGE

By Addie Ulrey

Through a series of repeat interactions between a stalwart Customer and a Server at a Berkeley restaurant, Agent of Change explores the exhausting logistics of sausage shipping, client service relations, and food waste. Is caring about change enough to spark global reform?

CHRISTMAS EVITA

By Tom Bruett

When volunteering at a nursing home on Christmas, Edgar is faced with the challenging task of serving dinner to the most crotchety member of the community. Though wildly different, the two men bridge the generational divide by connecting around shared love, loss and a mutual appreciation for a certain Andrew Lloyd Weber musical.

I'M BACK

By Christian Wilburn

Nobody wants Michael Jordan to play baseball, except Michael Jordan. When the ghost of Michael's father visits, MJ knows he has a decision to make: stay in baseball or return to basketball. Through this supernatural take on a superstar story, we learn that even Michael Jordan has doubts, fears and the desire to make his parents proud.

LOVE, PRAY, EAT

By Melissa Keith

Wanda is distressed by Jackie's avant-garde views on love. Is there more to life than fulfilling a biological imperative? Wanda wants the traditional love story: to find a partner, have kids, and to decapitate and devour her partner immediately after breeding. In this story about love, lust, and tolerance, is it really survival of the fittest?

THE EVOCATION

By Leela Velautham

In this prequel to the Scottish play, Lady Macbeth is processing the pain from the premature death of her third child and looking for consolation from her husband, who's preoccupied with his next planned battle. As her pleas for him to stay become increasingly desperate, she is pushed to the point of saying something she immediately regrets - setting in motion one of the greatest tragedies ever written.

THE GRAVEDIGGER'S WIFE

By Martha Soukup

Following the advice of great Greek philosophers, Shakespeare's greatest plays focus on the highest of the high: princes and queens born to greatness by nature of their nobility. But triumph and tragedy strike even the most common of common. Breathing life into the far tangents of Hamlet's side characters, this prequel asks if it's only "poor Yorick" we ought to pity.

DEVELOPMENTAL READINGS OF PLAYS:

TRANSLATIONS

By Victoria Chong Der

5/25 @ 8pm

SAPIENCE

By Diana Burbano

5/29 @ 8pm

BURST

By Rachel Bublitz

6/1 @ 8pm

THE NESTING INSTINCT

By Tom Bruett

6/5 @ 8pm

ZOOM READINGS OF PLAYGROUND HITS:

FIRST PERSON SHOOTER

By Aaron Loeb

PlayGround commission, premiered 2007, co-production with SF Playhouse

5/15 @ 8pm

SAFEHOUSE

By Geetha Reddy

PlayGround commission; premiered 2010, co-production with SF Playhouse

5/16 @ 8pm

LOLITA ROADTRIP

By Trevor Allen
PlayGround commission; premiered 2011, co-production with San Jose Stage

5/17 @ 5pm

ABOMINABLE

By Katie May

PlayGround commission; premiered 2016, PlayGround Festival

5/22 @ 8pm

1980 OR WHY I'M VOTING FOR John Anderson


By Patricia Cotter

PlayGround commission; premiered 2017, Jackalope Theatre Company

5/23 @ 8pm

ANNA CONSIDERS MARS


By Ruben Grijalva
PlayGround-Planet Earth Arts co-commission; premiered 2019, PlayGround Festival

5/24 @ 5pm

EVENING OF SHORT PLAYS - PROGRAM A


Cold Calls by Martha Soukup
My Better Half by Jonathan Spector
La Vida Lobo by Linda Amayo-Hassan
Someone by Genne Murphy
You Eat What You Kill by Cleavon Smith

My Name is Yin by Tom Swift

5/11 @ 8pm

EVENING OF SHORT PLAYS - PROGRAM B


I'd Like to Buy a Vowel by Cass Brayton

Monarchs in Space by Nicole Jost

Hella Love Oakland by Robin Lynn Rodriguez

Miss Finknagle Succumbs to Chaos by Kirk Shimano

Dear Santa by Nic A. Sommerfeld

All Thumbs by Aaron Loeb

5/18 @ 8pm

12TH ANNUAL HOWARD & Leonard Klein YOUTH PLAYWRIGHTS PROJECT


Featuring works by top high school dramatists

6/12 @ 8pm

FILMS FROM PLAYGROUND FESTIVALS:

EVENING OF SHORT FILMS - PROGRAM A

Meeting Matt Damon by Ron Burch & Frieda de Lackner

Miss Finknagle Succumbs to Chaos by Kirk Shimano & Amy Harrison

Obit by Geetha Reddy & Brian Tolle

Reading in Bed by Ken Prestininzi & Sandor Weiner

5/13 @ 8pm

EVENING OF SHORT FILMS - PROGRAM B

Aegis by Jonathan Luskin & Mark Leialoha

Climax by Sean Owens & Jeremy Solterbeck

Ecce Homo by Jonathan Luskin & Mark Leialoha

Iowa by Malachy Walsh & Alex Vietti

5/14 @ 8pm

EVENING OF SHORT FILMS - PROGRAM C

Reunion by Kenn Rabin, Greg Runnels & Mark Runnels

The Beginning by Tom Swift & Brian Tolle

The Etymology of Zero by Katie May, Liz Anderson & Seth Podowitz

The Secret Life of a Hotel Room by Garret Jon Groenveld, Greg Runnels & Mark Runnels

5/20 @ 8pm

EVENING OF SHORT FILMS - PROGRAM D

Undone by Diane Sampson & Bruce Coughran

Value Over Replacement by Ruben Grijalva

Wednesday by Daniel Heath & Jennifer Arzt

5/21 @ 8pm

SPECIAL EVENTS:

PLAYGROUND & THE AMERICAN THEATRE:
PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE

6/8 @ 8pm

Past: Lauren Yee, Aaron Loeb, Geetha Reddy, and Kent Nicholson (moderator)

Present: Lily Janiak, Ruben Grijalva, Rinabeth Apostol, and Annie Stuart (moderator)

Future: Christian Wilburn, Diana Burbano, Jeunee Simon, Chris Steele (moderator)

Visionary voices of the American theatre lead discussions in a Zoom Town Hall about the state of the arts in three micro-panels: Past, Present, and Future.

25TH ANNIVERSARY LIVESTREAM DANCE PARTY

6/14 @ 7pm

PlayGround celebrates 25 years of new works and closes the Zoom Fest with a virtual party to rock the ages.


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