Directors and Casts Set for PlayGround Festival of New Works Plays

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Directors and Casting is set for the two PlayGround Festival premieres, A HISTORY OF FREAKS by Katie May, May 13-June 15 (Press /Opening: May 15 at 8pm), helmed by circus arts performer and director Doyle Ott and ANNA CONSIDERS MARS by Ruben Grijalva, May 20-June 16 (Press /Opening: May 22 at 8pm), helmed by San Francisco Playhouse Producing Director Susi Damilano. The productions will run in rotating repertory as part of the 25th Season PlayGround Festival of New Works, May 13-June 16, 2019. Tickets for the entire PlayGround Festival are now on sale. For more information, visit

Katie May's A HISTORY OF FREAKS uses the frame of a traveling circus and its sideshow acts to explore "otherness" and the question of who gets to tell our stories. A HISTORY OF FREAKS was originally commissioned and developed in 2009 at College of Idaho, May's alma mater. The play was a 2015 PlayGround Festival selection where it received further development and public staged readings, directed by PlayGround Artistic Director Jim Kleinmann. This premiere production is directed by circus arts performer and director Doyle Ott, the cast includes leads Patrick Russell* as "Joseph" and Laura Espino as "Claire", with Sean Garahan*, Stephanie Prentice*, Steven Westdahl and Elena Wright*.*AEA

ANNA CONSIDERS MARS is a play of our time, with its focus on the collision of issues just coming to a head - a planet in the balance with rising global temperatures, mass extinction, and rapidly rising economic disparity on one side, and significant advancements in technology that promise a bold new future on the other. ANNA CONSIDERS MARS is a PlayGround/Planet Earth Arts co-commission and was originally developed as part of the 2018 PlayGround Festival. This premiere production is directed by San Francisco Playhouse Producing Director Susi Damilano and features a cast of Bay Area standouts, including Melissa Ortiz* as "Anna", with Wilma Bonet*, Christian Haines*, Soren Oliver*, Katie Rubin* and Aaron Wilton*. *AEA

The PlayGround Festival is one of PlayGround's longest standing programs (now on its twenty-third year) and the Bay Area's largest showcase of new plays, with more than a dozen new short and full-length plays, from developmental staged readings to world premiere productions, featured over forty performances over six weeks. The festival has become one of the most important launching pads for early-career Bay Area (and, more recently, Los Angeles) playwrights and their work, leading to collaborations, commissions and productions both in continuing relationship to and often well beyond PlayGround. Alumni include Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, Aaron Loeb, Geetha Reddy, Lauren Yee, Garret Jon Groenveld, Cleavon Smith, and Patricia Cotter, among others. Ruben Grijalva and Katie May have participated in a number of past festivals and were last paired up in the 2016 PlayGround Festival, where PlayGround premiered May's Abominable and Grijalva's Value Over Replacement.

A HISTORY OF FREAKS - When Joe returns from college to take the reins of his family's traveling circus, he finds the sideshow performers under the big top, an animal trainer with no animals, a wire-walker grounded since the loss of her formerly conjoined twin, and a show struggling to find its footing in the modern world. To save the circus, they'll have to face long-buried truths and rediscover the power of circus magic.

Katie May's (Playwright) plays include Abominable (PlayGround/Symmetry Theatre Company, Lark Playwrights' Week Finalist), Manic Pixie Dream Girl (fringeNYC & A.C.T. Costume Shop, San Francisco), Black Sheep Gospel (Great Plains Theater Conference), and A History of Freaks (Finalist, David Mark Cohen Award), among others. Her short play Rapunzel's Etymology of Zero (Best of Playground Festival, Short + Sweet Sydney) was published in the Best of PlayGround Anthology, 2011, and was subsequently made into an animated short film that screened in festivals both nationally and internationally. May has been a member of the San Francisco PlayGround Writers Pool since 2008, and a PlayGround Playwright in Residence since 2014. Her work has received productions in San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Arizona, Idaho, and Sydney, Australia. May is the recipient of grants and fellowships from the Virginia Piper Writing Center, National University of Singapore, Women in Film LA, and a two-time PlayGround Emerging Playwright Award winner. She holds an MFA from Arizona State University.

Doyle Ott (Director, A History of Freaks) is a theatre and circus artist with credits including work with Make A Circus, Splash Circus Theatre, Prescott Circus, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, San Francisco Circus Center, Bay Area Children's Theatre, Foolsfury, Antenna Theatre, Golden Thread, and the San Francisco Playwright's Foundation. Recent work includes directing Sweeney Todd for Sonoma State University, devising a circus performance based on Caps for Sale, and a book chapter about circus adaptations of Alice in Wonderland. Doyle serves as Artistic Director at Children's Fairyland in Oakland and teaches at Sonoma State. He is a certified Feldenkrais practitioner, a company member with PlayGround and with the Medical Clown Project, and a member of Actors' Equity.

ANNA CONSIDERS MARS - As executive director of the flailing Center for the Preservation of Uncharismatic Species, Anna has a front row seat to a global mass extinction event. As her mother's caretaker, she's reminded daily reminder of our inevitable decline. And though a ubiquitous augmented reality platform renders a pretty face on it all, the flood waters keep rising, the food supply keeps dwindling, and there is a pervasive sense that humanity's best days are behind us. In this context, the worldwide search for the first Mars colonists becomes a source of great hope. Anna is hopeful that there, with a human species attempting to start over, she can start over too. Now she just has to get her hands on a golden ticket. Anna Considers Mars is a play of our time, with its focus on the collision of issues just coming to a head - a planet in the balance with rising global temperatures, mass extinction, and rapidly rising economic disparity on one side, and significant advancements in technology that promise a bold new future on the other. While interested in emerging technologies, Ruben's play is ultimately about the human journey and our struggle, as individuals and as a species, to survive.

Ruben Grijalva (Playwright) is an award-winning San Francisco-based playwright and filmmaker. His short plays include Full Steam Ahead and the PianoFight ShortLived winning All The Worlds Are Stages. His full-length plays include Foresight, Anna Considers Mars, and the Edgerton Foundation New Play Award-winning Value Over Replacement, which premiered in the 2016 PlayGround Festival of New Works. He began writing for PlayGround in 2011 and is a three-time Best of PlayGround finalist and current Resident Playwright.

Susi Damilano (Director) is co-founder and Producing Director of the San Francisco Playhouse. She is a five-time recipient of the Bay Area Theatre Critic Circle (BATCC) award for Best Female Performance in Abigail's Party, Harper Regan, Bug, Six Degrees of Separation, and Reckless. At the Playhouse she has performed leading roles in The Roommate, Red Velvet, Tree, Bauer, Abigail's Party, Harper Regan, Coraline, Slasher, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Landscape of the Body, First Person Shooter, Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train, The Crucible, Kimberly Akimbo, Our Town and The Smell of the Kill. Directing credits include Playhouse productions of Noises Off, She Loves Me, Stage Kiss, Company, Stupid Fucking Bird, Into the Woods, A Behanding in Spokane, Den of Thieves and Wirehead** ; the West Coast Premieres of Honey Brown Eyes**, Dead Man's Cell Phone, Coronado, The Mystery Plays and Roulette and the world premieres of Steven Dietz's On Clover Road, Rhett Rossi's From Red to Black and Daniel Heath's Seven Days in the Sandbox Series. (**nominated for BATCC Directing award.)

PlayGround, the Bay Area's leading playwright incubator, provides unique development opportunities for the Bay Area's best new playwrights, including the monthly Monday Night PlayGround staged reading series, annual PlayGround Festival of New Works, full-length play commissions and support for the production of new plays by local playwrights through the New Play Production Fund. To date, PlayGround has supported over 200 local playwrights in the development and staging of more than 850 original short plays and 75 new full-length plays, with 6 more commissions currently in development. PlayGround also operates Potrero Stage (formerly Thick House), a state-of-the-art 99-seat black box theatre in San Francisco's Potrero Hill neighborhood, home to some of the Bay Area's leading new play developers and producers, including PlayGround, Crowded Fire, Golden Thread, and Playwrights Foundation. For more information, visit

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