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Ojai Playwrights Conference Announces 2020 Season Featuring 15 Online Plays

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Ojai Playwrights Conference Announces 2020 Season Featuring 15 Online Plays

Ojai Playwrights Conference has announced a series of online, intimate artistic residencies and programs designed for 2020 circumstances, continuing for the 23rd season the work of developing new plays and providing support for diverse writers both emerging and established.

"The challenging and troubling events of this moment in history, due to the impact of COVID-19, have changed the process of how OPC will work with plays and playwrights for now. The work of OPC will continue online and we are deeply excited by the talent and insight reflected in the plays participating in our 2020 season, themed 'Onward Together,'" states Robert Egan, OPC Artistic Director/Producer. "It is essential now, more than ever, to support those voices that uplift and inspire us toward a safer, healthier, more sustainable society and planet.

"Though we will not have a general public component this season, we will be developing 15 plays online. We will initiate development on seven new plays in our OPC 1st Stage Workshop Program during November and December with the goal of presenting them in Ojai as part of our traditional summer New Works Festival in 2021," explains Egan.

"In addition, the OPC Foundry Project will provide intensive development work for four months, July through October, for eight playwrights who are building new work."

The OPC 1st Stage Workshop Program plays and playwrights include "Corsicana" by Will Arbery, "The Sensational Sea Mink-ettes" by Vivian Barnes, "Primary Trust" by Eboni Booth, "Bust" by Zora Howard, "Untitled" by Elizabeth Irwin, "Regretfully, So the Birds Are" by Julia Izumi and "The Ants" by Ramiz Monsef.

The OPC Foundry Project plays and playwrights include "King's Country" by Luis Alfaro, "I'll Be Seein' Ya" byJon Robin Baitz, "NANA" by Aziza Barnes, "The Patriots" by Bill Cain, "Even Flowers Bloom in Hell, Sometimes" by Franky Gonzalez, "A Case for the Existence of God," by Samuel D. Hunter, "Apostrophe" byLiza Powel O'Brien and "Antigones" by Anna Ziegler.

The OPC Youth Workshop will take place in August 2020. Young artists, mentored by OPC playwrights and staff, will write and produce short films personal to their lives during an 18-day process, which will culminate in an online presentation for OPC supporters, friends and family.

1st STAGE WORKSHOP PROJECT PLAYS AND PLAYWRIGHTS

To Be Presented in OPC Summer New Works Festival 2021
"Corsicana" by Will Arbery. In Corsicana, a small city in the heart of Texas, a woman with Down syndrome and her half-brother find themselves unmoored in the wake of their mother's death. Needing help, Christopher asks Ginny to spend time with a local outsider artist, Lot, whose outsider status extends beyond art. Lot is different, or unique or brilliant or complicated or wrong. In this tender quartet about community and caretaking, reality is a consensus not everyone consents to, whether they're counted among the special, the "special needs," or the so-called normal. An exquisite insight into the longings for love and comfort in this troubled world.
BIO: Arbery hails from Texas and Wyoming and was raised with seven sisters. His play "Heroes of the Fourth Turning" was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, the winner of the Lortel Award for Outstanding Play, the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Play, the John Gassner Playwriting Award and the Whiting Award for Drama. Other plays include "Plano" (Clubbed Thumb), "Evanston Salt Costs Climbing" (New Neighborhood, OPC 2017), and "Wheelchair" (3 Hole Press). Commissions from Playwrights Horizons, Audible and MTC.

"The Sensational Sea Mink-ettes" by Vivian Barnes. The Sea Mink-ettes are the most vivacious dance line around and homecoming is their time to shine! As the big day creeps closer, petty infighting and the quest for perfection threaten to tear the group apart. Then three of their teammates suddenly disappear. Then their phone calls for help mysteriously stop getting answered. And the stadium lights won't stop flickering. And the darkness around them keeps growing. And...what day is it, again? What day is it, again? What day is it, again? A highly theatrical, thrilling new work about the limits of being "the best."
BIO: A playwright from Virginia, Barnes' work has been produced and developed at Clubbed Thumb, Actors Theatre of Louisville (2020 Humana Festival), Montana Repertory Theatre and UC San Diego. Her play "Heap" was a semi-finalist for the 2020 National Playwrights Conference. Her play "Jezebels" was a finalist for both the 2019 Bay Area Playwrights Festival and the O'Neill's National Playwrights Conference, as well as an honorable mention for the 2019 Kilroys List. She is a third-year MFA playwright at UC San Diego where she studies with Naomi Iizuka and Deborah Stein.

"Primary Trust" by Eboni Booth. Kenneth is a lonely guy living in a small town outside of Rochester, New York. He's had the same job for 20 years and the highlight of his day is Happy Hour with his best friend, Bert. After Kenneth unexpectedly loses his job, he realizes how unprepared he is to face the challenges of everyday life. With Bert's support, Kenneth attempts to navigate this big new world in his little hometown. A wondrous, moving play about friendship, loss, the powers of the imagination and trying new things.
BIO: A writer and actress from New York City, Booth's play "Paris" had its premiere at the Atlantic Theater Company. As an actress, Booth has appeared in productions at Playwrights Horizons, LCT3, Manhattan Theatre Club, Ars Nova, WP Theater, Page 73, Soho Rep., Clubbed Thumb, and more. Booth is a graduate of the University of Vermont and Juilliard's playwriting program.

"Bust" by Zora Howard. Retta and Reggie are enjoying their usual evening on the porch not minding their own business when poof! Mr. Woods, a longtime neighbor, disappears into thin air. Or does he explode? The story goes viral. Panic ensues. Why are these Black people going missing all willy-nilly? And when they go, are they gone for good? Someone in this play should likely try to figure that out. A compelling and hilarious look at the seismic rumblings beneath and beyond the surface of today's chaotic world.

BIO: A Harlem-bred writer and performer, Howard's plays include "Stew," "AtGN," "Hang Time" and "Good Faith." Her work has been developed by Page 73 Productions, SPACE on Ryder Farm, Pipeline Theatre Company, Yale University and Cape Cod Theatre Project, among others. As a performer, her work has been featured on HBO, TV One, PBS, and NBC. In 2019, her feature film "Premature," which she co-wrote and starred in, had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and was released by IFC Films in 2020. She is a member of the 2019 Interstate 73 Writers Group and Pipeline PlayLab. BA: Yale University; MFA: University of California San Diego.

"Untitled" by Elizabeth Irwin. Several women are in a domestic violence support group. They experience the traditional dynamics and limits of therapeutic work, the use of playacting as healing, and what it means to involve those outside the support group circle. The women confront the structures that condone partner violence and the role of friends and family in upholding those structures. It's a poignant story that searches for a different way to view survivors. Why do we blame survivors for the abuse inflicted upon them? Is this a way to allay our fear that we could ever be them? This play bravely shows a better way.

BIO: Playwright, public school and prison educator, and radical socialist, Irwin was a member of the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab, Playwrights Realm Writing Fellow, and a member of The Public Theater's Emerging Writers Group. Her play "My Mañana Comes" (Lucille Lortel Outstanding Play Nominee, Drama Desk Outstanding Play Nominee, Outer Critics Circle John Gassner Award Nominee), received a critically acclaimed Off-Broadway run and also played at San Diego REP, Marin Theatre Company, ArtsWest Seattle, Teatro Vista in Chicago and Premiere Stages in Houston.

"Regretfully, So the Birds Are" by Julia Izumi. Illy and Neel fall in love and Mora is so upset she decides to go on a journey to find her birth mother. Meanwhile, Neel discovers he's tone-deaf and decides to go on a journey to find himself. Meanwhile, Illy doesn't go on a journey because she's bought a part of the sky, so what more does she need? Meanwhile Elinore is in jail and Cam is melting . . .? It's a farcical tragedy that questions the destructive nature of the American need for identity, while trying to wade through the murky waters of Asian American-ness.
BIO: A writer and performer who makes plays, musicals, and everything in between, Izumi has developed work at Manhattan Theatre Club, the Bushwick Starr, Berkeley Rep's Ground Floor, SPACE on Ryder Farm, Oregon Shakespeare Festival's BLACK SWAN Lab and Williamstown Theatre Festival. Her work has been presented at San Francisco Playhouse, Trinity Repertory Company, the National Asian American Theater ConFest, Dixon Place, FringeNYC, and Corkscrew Theater Festival. MFA: Brown University.

"The Ants" by Ramiz Monsef. One stormy night in upper class America, in the hills, a violent uprising of the poor and ignored leaves three people trapped in what they think is the safest, most protected, most secure house possible. There they must decide to stay in the world they know or accept the new one that is literally knocking down their front door. Humor, horror and dark surprises abound in this stunningly perceptive look at the near future.

BIO: Currently in The Writers' Room at The Geffen Playhouse, Monsef is co-author of the musical "The Unfortunates" produced at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and ACT in San Francisco. He wrote that show's accompanying graphic novel as well. He also co-wrote "The Many Deaths of Nathan Stubblefield," which premiered in the 2017 Humana Festival at Actors Theatre of Louisville. His play "3 Farids" was part of The Bushwick Starr reading series and selected to be in the New Works Festival at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, the DNA New Work Series at La Jolla Playhouse and at Playwrights Horizons. Monsef is an actor and has appeared in major theatres across the country and numerous television series.

OPC FOUNDRY PROJECT PLAYS AND PLAYWRIGHTS

"King's Country" by Luis Alfaro. A young man goes in search of himself and discovers a religious order in the Central Valley of California. Lost in the new ethic of the Catholic Church, these devout Christian brothers struggle with adapting to the modern world. The young man helps this ancient order come to terms with change. He forms a bond with an orphan who has been raised in this once cloistered sect. There is a confrontation with what truly makes a person of faith. It is a dramatic journey rich in humor, a sense of the mysterious and an embrace of California history.
BIO: A renowned Los Angeles born and raised Chicano writer known for his work in poetry, theatre, short fiction, performance and journalism, Alfaro was Playwright-in-Residence at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival from 2013-2019 and a member of the Playwrights Ensemble at Chicago's Victory Gardens Theater from 2013-2020. He has had productions at the Magic Theatre in S.F., The Public Theater in NYC and Playwrights' Arena in L.A. A recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, his plays include "Electricidad," "Oedipus el Rey," "Mojada," "Delano" and "Body of Faith." Alfaro has been associated with the Ojai Playwrights Conference since 2002.

"I'll Be Seein' Ya" by Jon Robin Baitz. Imagine a world where power equals water. After the catastrophes of republics failing, economies non-functioning, and displaced peoples fleeing cities made uninhabitable by a warming earth, only one commodity equals power - water. An instantly recognizable global corporation controls most of the water by accessing the deepest aquifers on the planet. The corporation is run by powerful women who do the work of nations - providing food, shelter, education, and employment to a select few, and controlling refugee camps filled with Americans. But all is not as it seems - beyond physics, time and humankind.
BIO: Regarded as a preeminent dramatist of the personal and public moral compromise in contemporary America, Baitz's plays include Pulitzer Prize Finalist "A Fair Country" along with Pulitzer Prize Finalist "Other Desert Cities," "The Paris Letter" and "Vicuña," all three developed at the Ojai Playwrights Conference, and produced at Center Theatre Group. He is the creator of the long running ABC drama "Brothers & Sisters" and "The Slap," a limited series for NBC. His screenplays include "The Substance of Fire," based on his play, and Roland Emmerich's "Stonewall."

"NANA" by Aziza Barnes. An epic domestic drama based on the shared and personal mythologies of Aziza's paternal lineage. The time is the Bronx in the 50s, the play takes place over the course of a few days in the sweltering heat of June. Set in the apartment where Aziza's great aunts, uncles and grandmother lived, "Nana" explodes long simmering conflicts over colorism within a family; the dysfunctional logics of loving one's own blackness; the ease and temptations of whiteness; and substance abuse as self-medication and self-assertion. "NANA" releases all the family brood to spew - giving the sensation of freedom while keeping all in place.

BIO: Aziza Barnes - 'Z' - is blk & alive. Barnes' play "BLKS" has been produced at Steppenwolf Theatre, Woolly Mammoth Theatre and MCC Theater. It was nominated for the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play and won the Antonyo Award for Best Play. Barnes has participated in residencies with such theatres and organizations as Sundance, Ojai Playwrights Conference, Center Theatre Group (Writers' Workshop), Callaloo and Cave Canem. Barnes' play "NANA" was commissioned by Williamstown Theatre Festival. Barnes lives in L.A.

"The Patriots" by Bill Cain. What in the world can a white man write about during today's explosive expansion of consciousness on race? Well, he can at least write about another white man. In this case, Francis Scott Key. The willful obfuscation of the circumstances behind our national anthem is a masterpiece of forgetting. Yes, let's tear down the statue of the author of the words, and get to the roots of what makes the singing of that anthem - dangerous. A time-travelling exploration of the first race riot in America (inspired by Francis Scott Key) merged with Super Bowls where taking a knee became a symbol of standing up for freedom

BIO: The author of "Equivocation" (Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Arena Stage, Geffen Playhouse, Manhattan Theatre Club); "9 Circles" (Marin Theatre, Bootleg, Sheen Center); "How to Write a New Book for the Bible" (Berkeley Rep, Seattle Rep, South Coast Rep); "Stand-Up Tragedy" (Mark Taper Forum, Arena Stage, Hartford Stage and ultimately Broadway). Cain received the 2009 and 2010 Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award. He has spent eight summers at the Ojai Playwrights Conference developing his plays.

"Even Flowers Bloom in Hell, Sometimes" by Franky Gonzalez. An intimate, powerful examination of a system of social control through mass incarceration that shapes every aspect of life both for those inside the prison walls struggling in isolation to find meaning and self-worth, and those outside, including younger generations struggling to resist - or even whether to resist - the social forces, political policies, and racial discrimination that targets generation after generation. Inmate-correctional officer relations, the passing of time, theatre as rehab, and the resiliency of love within a prison system that has swept up so many fathers, uncles and brothers are the focus of this dynamic drama.

BIO: A Columbian American playwright and television writer, Gonzalez's plays have been produced or developed at The Lark, The Sundance Institute, The Goodman Theatre (Live @ Five Series), Repertorio Español, LAByrinth Theater Company, and the Dallas Theater Center. Gonzalez is a recipient of the Crossroads Project Diverse Voices Playwriting Initiative Award and a MacDowell Fellowship and co-recipient for the 2018 MetLife Nuestras Voces Latino Playwriting Award. He divides his time between Dallas and Los Angeles.

"A Case for the Existence of God" by Samuel D. Hunter. In a cubicle in a small office in southeastern Idaho, two men struggle to secure terms on a loan. A brand new play from an OPC favorite who developed "Greater Clements" (2017), "Rest" (2013) and "I Am Montana" (2008) in the Ojai artistic community.

BIO: Currently Resident Playwright at New York's Signature Theatre, Hunter's many acclaimed plays include "The Whale" (Drama Desk Award, Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play, GLAAD Media Award), "A Bright New Boise" (Obie Award), and most recently, "Greater Clements" (Outer Critics Circle Honoree), which was developed at the Ojai Playwrights Conference. His plays have been produced at major theatres across the country from Lincoln Center Theater to Seattle Rep and his many honors include a MacArthur Fellowship.

"Apostrophe" by Liza Powel O'Brien. At a prominent private high school with a troubled past, a legendary drama teacher employs unorthodox and intimate methods with her star student; a reforming headmistress uses silence and erasure to protect the vulnerable; a father tries to protect a daughter; and two friends lurch bewildered through the unnamed space between girlhood and womanhood. "Apostrophe" asks: How do we protect ourselves from the people we love? How do we protect ourselves from the people who love us? Is it truly possible to erase a problem? What gets lost when we try?

BIO: O'Brien is a playwright whose work has been seen and developed at The Geffen Playhouse, The Blank Theatre, Unscreened LA, Naked Angels LA, Ojai Playwrights Conference, Hedgebrook and The Lark. She was an inaugural member of The Writers' Room at the Geffen, and holds an MFA in Fiction from Columbia University.

"Antigones" by Anna Ziegler. Women's bodies and the body politic collide in this compelling reimagining of the classic play by Sophocles. Here Antigone is a woman haunted by her own history, which is also the history of all women. Here a mysterious Chorus tells a story from our future that might as well be from our past. How can we possibly fix the world if we don't even own our own bodies? An "Antigone" for the #MeToo moment, this lyrical, political retelling asks us to consider, "What will it take for anything to really change?"

BIO: Ziegler's plays include the widely produced "Photograph 51" (London's West End, directed by Michael Grandage, starring Nicole Kidman; upcoming at Williamstown Theatre Festival, on Audible; and named the number one play of 2019 by the Chicago Tribune), "The Last Match" (Roundabout, Old Globe), "The Wanderers" (Old Globe and upcoming Roundabout), and "Actually" (Geffen Playhouse, Williamstown, Manhattan Theatre Club; Ovation Award winner for Playwriting). "Anna Ziegler: Plays One" is published by Oberon.

Since 1998, theatre professionals and enthusiastic audiences have converged in Ojai to participate in the development of new plays for the American theatre. Plays developed at OPC have gone on to have numerous productions on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and at regional theatres across the country. Some have been nominated for and won prestigious awards. Both "Fun Home" by Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori, and Jon Robin Baitz's "Other Desert Cities" were Pulitzer Finalists; "Fun Home" won the Tony Award for Best Musical; and Danai Gurira's "Eclipsed" and Stephen Adly Guirgis' "The Motherf**ker with the Hat" were each nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play.


For more information about Ojai Playwrights Conference visit www.ojaiplays.org


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