Kendeda. A word. An acronym, of sorts. But lovers of new American plays know that those three syllables herald a brief and noteworthy season of discovery.
Such well-known, nationally produced writers as Tarell Alvin McCraney, Julia Brownell, Mike Lew, Bekah Brunstetter, Megan Gogerty, Kenneth Lin, Meg Miroshnik, Tim Guillot and Madhuri Shekar have been showcased through what is now called the Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition. Some with full productions on the Hertz Stage. Many others in the Festival of New Plays that accompanies the opening week of the award-winning play.
This year, four of the five playwrights receiving readings are women. That’s almost unheard of in an era when, according to national statistics, about 24 percent of all plays produced nationwide are by women (dead or alive), even though 51 percent of the population is female.
Kendeda season at the Alliance Theatre is one of the most wonderful times of the year. Mark your calendars now for a jam-packed slate of events running Feb. 16-19, including talkbacks, discussions and plenty of debate.
This year’s winning play, The C.A. Lyons Project by Tsehaye Geralyn Hébert, previews Feb. 13-15 and 17, opens Feb. 18 and runs through March 8. It uses dance, theater and language to tell the story of a choreographer who can no longer hide his sexuality or his illness, and finds his dance company threatened. The three women who love him must decide how to carry on his legacy.
Plays by four finalists receive the staged readings, as does one from a Kendeda alum. The readings are free, but reservations are recommended because they do fill up, and seating is limited. Call 404.733.5000.
MONDAY | FEB. 16
7:30 p.m. An ethics onstage discussion with playwright Hébert at the Emory Center for Ethics, 1531 Dickey Drive on the Emory University campus. No reservations needed.
TUESDAY | FEB. 17
2 p.m. Finalist reading. Pocketful of Sand by Emily Dendinger of the University of Iowa, described as poetic theater. Story: Eight minutes: that’s all it takes for a soul to dry up before it can be preserved by the sea. This play introduces us to an old man named Coco who harvests souls from bodies he pulls from the sea, and how he comes to teach his trade to a young orphan girl named Sunny. As the more sinister aspects of his work emerge, Sunny must decide whether the work they’re doing outweighs the costs. Horizon Theatre Co-Artistic Director Lisa Adler directs.
7:30 p.m. Finalist reading. An Alien in Inwood by Kimberly Barrante of the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, described as a mix of social commentary and science-fiction fantasy. Story: Walter, a professor, has been around a New York City university for a long time, with many people who support his efforts and dreams. But, believing the world is increasingly unsafe, he thinks he’ll save the planet when he’s blinded by a light and an alien named ORION appears. It asks what we allow to become our truths when we’re protecting the people we love. Atlanta actor-playwright Suehyla El-Attar (Third Country; The Devil, the Doctor and My Dad) directs.
WEDNESDAY | FEB. 18
2 p.m. Alumnus reading. Making Myth by Virginia Grise, a 2010 Kendeda finalist for blu. Story: A conservative intellectual wound a little tight; a graduate student who likes a good fight; a beer-drinking, polka-dancing half-breed; and a cross-dressing street-smart macha meet in a South Texas bar. Between the liquor and the line dancing, what ensues is a raucous, rapid-fire theoretical showdown, proving that Texas really is a whole ‘nother country. Directed by Karen Robinson, interim chair of the Kennesaw State University theater department.
THURSDAY | FEB. 19
2 p.m. Finalist reading. Evanston: A Rare Comedy by Michael Yates Crowley of the Juilliard School, inspired by Psalm 137 and the best-seller Eat, Pray, Love. Story: A teenage girl disappears in deepest suburbia, and a meeting of the local women’s book club goes horribly awry in this comic look at how we can sing a song of joy in a strange land. Directed by Atlanta actor-director Veronika Duerr, a 2015 Alliance Atlanta Artist Fellow.
5 p.m. Discussion. A conversation about The C.A. Lyons Project with Celise Kalke, the Alliance’s director of new projects, and playwright Hébert.
7:30 p.m. Finalist reading. Ballast by Georgette Kelly of Hunter College, which asks what happens when you wake up and find that the person sleeping next to you is not the person you thought you knew. Kelly’s characters include a woman who dreams of flying; her spouse, who is transitioning from man to woman and dreams of finding a religious community; a teenager who dreams only of a 16-year-old boy; and the boy, who’s haunted by the nightmares he sees when he looks in the mirror. Directed by Jasmine Guy.