First Run Theatre Selects Two One Act Plays to Open Their Mainstage Season

THE CONVERSATION ABOUT THE KEYS: TIM WITHOUT THALIA, PART 1 and CASH FLOW Will Have Their World Premiere at the Kranzberg Black Box in August

By: Jul. 08, 2024
First Run Theatre Selects Two One Act Plays to Open Their Mainstage Season
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After reading submissions from over 50 Midwestern playwrights, First Run Theatre in St. Louis has selected the plays they will premiere as part of the 2024 Mainstage Season. Opening their season, on August 2, 2024, First Run will present two one act comedies. One from Evansville, Indiana playwright Yu-Li Alice Shen and one from St. Louis playwright Marjorie Williamson.  The third play in their mainstage season will premiere in the fall and is also written by Marjorie Williamson.

First Run Artistic Director, Gwynneth Rausch and the Director of the two one act plays, Phil Wright, shared their excitement about Williamson and Shen’s comedies, CASH FLOW and THE CONVERSATION ABOUT THE KEYS, PART I: TIM WITHOUT THALIA. Both comedies are about the chaos in relationships between men and women. Having two equally strong one act plays submitted with similar themes gave First Run Theatre the opportunity to produce both as a double bill. Rausch called these plays, “Two clever and perceptive little gems about men and women.”

Yu-Li Alice Shen is an instructor of English at The University of Southern Indiana. She earned a Master of Fine Arts Degree in playwrighting from Virginia Tech and her Bachelor of Arts Degree in English from James Madison University. She has many acting and directing credits and has narrated eight audiobooks. Shen shared that the submitting plays for production has become very competitive.  “I am very excited to have been selected by First Run Theatre, especially because St. Louis is very close to where I live,” Shen said. She is looking forward to making the 3-hour drive to be here when the play opens. Shen said her play, THE CONVERSATION ABOUT THE KEYS, PART I: TIM WITHOUT THALIA, is a romantic comedy about a man who is getting cold feed prior to his wedding. According to the playwright it is a play that is told out of linear structure, and the audience will see all the stages of the couple’s relationship over time.

First Run's process for selecting plays begins with blind readings by a reading committee. The members of the reading committee do not know the names of the playwrights who penned each script. Once the selections are narrowed down, the remaining plays are performed as staged readings. From the staged readings, the plays are selected for their world premiere. The playwrights’ names remain blinded until the plays are selected for full-scale staging. This year, First Run selected two plays by Marjorie Williamson. Her full-length play, ELEPHANT’S GRAVEYARD, will be produced in the fall. “Having two plays selected by the same playwright, really speaks to Williamson’s strong voice as a writer,” say Rausch.

Marjorie Williamson is a graduate of the University of Missouri. She has worked on set and graphic design in the St. Louis theater community for many years. Her credits include set design work on Albion Theatre’s recent productions of THE BIRTHDAY PARTY and ABSENT FRIENDS. Williamson said, “It is a dream come true to have two of my plays selected by First Run Theatre this season.” She talked about her excitement of getting to be involved since the plays will be performed locally. When asked about the plays she said, “I think CASH FLOW is just a well-constructed comedy.” She called it a twisty little comedy about a guy who thinks he has a situation in control and the woman who is leading him down the garden path. “Elephants Graveyard is likely the only full-length play I’ll ever write,” says Williamson. She described it as a play about elderly people facing their mortality and the approach they take at the end of their life. She shared that she thinks the play is funny, not morbid, but ultimately it is about facing death.

In addition to First Run producing works that have never been seen before, they often give actors who are lesser experienced an opportunity to hone their craft. Wright said, “I’ve cast many newer actors who have gone on to become some of the most respected actors in the city.” He talked about his excitement getting to direct Shen and Williamson’s work. Wright is also working with a new lighting designer who has some great creative ideas. “The lighting designer and I just seem to click,” He continued, “it's going to be a great collaboration.”

THE CONVERSATION ABOUT THE KEYS, PART 1: TIM WITHOUT THALIA and CASH FLOW will premiere at First Run Theatre from August 2 – 11, 2024. Performances are at the Kranzberg Black Box at 501 Grand Blvd. Click the link below to purchase tickets.


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