Kendeda week at the Alliance Theatre is one of the most exciting times of the year for metro playgoers, many of whom seem increasingly drawn to new work.
For the unfamiliar, the Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition is the only program of its kind in the nation, giving master’s program graduates entry into the world of professional theater. Past winners and finalists include Tarell Alvin McCraney, Carson Kreitzer, Mike Lew, Megan Gogerty, Bekah Brunstetter and Meg Miroshnik, among others.
In addition to the fully staged world premiere of this year’s winner, Start Down by Eleanor Burgess (New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts), three finalists receive staged readings as does one Kendeda alumnus. And they are F-R-E-E. Reservations are highly recommended HERE or at 404.733.5000.
Start Down begins previews Saturday and opens Feb. 18 in the 200-seat Hertz Stage. Burgess will take part in a Creative Conversation at 5 that night, in advance of the 7:30 p.m. curtain. Finalists’ readings take place in the Alliance’s third-floor black-box theater, at the Woodruff Arts Center.
Each reading features professional actors and directors (plus complimentary refreshments and, at night, an on-site cash bar). The lineup:
Tuesday, Feb. 16
2 p.m.: Wishbone by Nina Braddock (NYU-Tisch). This drama is set in a hospital for eating disorders, where a group of patients demonstrates the tricky nature of these illnesses. Directed by Rachel May, Synchronicity Theatre co-founder and artistic director.
7:30 p.m.: All the Roads Home by Jen Silverman (Juilliard). Three generations of women in one family painfully explore self-actualization, limited in their dreams by strict social expectations. Directed by Freddie Ashley, artistic director at Actor’s Express.
Wednesday, Feb. 17
2 p.m.: The Ghosts of Lote Bravo by Hilary Bettis (Juilliard). A drama that uses magical realism conventions along the U.S/.Mexico border, as a mother desperately searches for her lost daughter. Directed by Lisa Adler, Horizon Theatre artistic director.
6 p.m.: Annual alumnus reading of Third Council of Lyon: Decoration Day by Neeley Gossett. Directed by Nichole Palmietto. Both are 2015-16 members of the Reiser Atlanta Artists Lab. Palmietto is co-founder of Found Stages.
7:30 p.m.: The Confession by Will Arbery (Northwestern University). In a Catholic boys school in Dallas, a gay and celibate priest is put on probation for inappropriate behavior in his classroom. Described as a character-driven, often-hilarious comedy about self-knowledge and an ancient institution moving gracefully (and sometimes clumsily) forward. Directed by Alliance directing fellow Jessica Holt.
Thursday, Feb. 18
5 p.m.: Creative Conversation with Burgess, the 2016 winner of the Alliance/Kendeda competition, who discusses her play Start Down, what life is like as an up-and-coming American playwright and the wisdom of always keeping a bottle of champagne in your refrigerator, just in case.
— Kathy Janich