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First Look at Four New Plays

Tue, 05/14/2024 - 11:47
The playwrights whose works will be featured in Bay Street Theater’s New Works Festival are, clockwise from top left, Deepak Kumar, Jeffrey Stock, Stephanie Alison Walker, Marc Acito, and Vincent Terrell Durham.
Courtesy of Bay Street Theater

Two female longshoremen trapped in a container ship, a white couple who open their Harlem brownstone to their neighbors, a real-life art forger, and a vandalized Indian restaurant in the Midwest are the subjects of the 10th annual Title Wave: 2024 New Works Festival, which opens tomorrow at Sag Harbor’s Bay Street Theater.

The festival, which includes staged readings and critical discussion, showcases both new works currently in development and cutting-edge theater. Directors and actors will be on hand to hear and learn from remarks about their work.

From 300 submissions, the selected works are “The Ordeal of Water” by Stephanie Alison Walker, “Polar Bears, Black Boys, and Prairie Fringed Orchids” by Vincent Terrell Durham, “Dutch Master: A Musical,” music and lyrics by Jeffrey Stock, book by Marc Acito; and “House Of India” by Deepak Kumar.

Of the four finalists, three were unsolicited submissions. “In recent years, we’ve leaned into unsolicited work, and that’s partly because there are so few opportunities for unsolicited work at really well-known and established theaters,” said Will Pomerantz, Bay Street’s associate artistic director. “We wanted to be one of the theaters that does that.”

“We have an exciting slate of work this year that lifts all different stories, with takes on women’s empowerment, historical events, family dynamics and expectations, and the melting pot of America,” said Hope Villanueva, the theater’s literary manager. Scott Schwartz, its artistic director, Mr. Pomerantz, and Ms. Villanueva are the primary readers of the submitted manuscripts, though other staff members help with first readings.

Set in San Pedro, Calif., in 1978, “The Ordeal of Water,” to be performed tomorrow at 8 p.m., focuses on Margo, who is excited about her first day as a longshoreman, and Ray, who’s been on the waterfront for two years. What Margo doesn’t expect is not only to alienate Ray but also to be locked with her inside the bowels of a container ship just before it leaves port for Shanghai.

Ms. Walker’s awards include a Dramatists Guild Foundation grant, the Primus Prize, the Blue Ink Award, and the Ashland New Plays Festival, where she was a two-time winner. Tomorrow’s staged reading, directed by Jen Wineman, stars Hannah Bonnet and Ani Mesa.

“Polar Bears, Black Boys, and Prairie Fringed Orchids” is about a liberal white couple new to Harlem who host a cocktail party for their neighbors. The guests are a Black Lives Matter activist, his date, a Black bookstore owner, and the mother of a slain 12-year-old boy. Good intentions yield to debates, accusations, and a revelation of implicit bias. It will be performed on Saturday at 2 p.m.

A standup comic as well as a playwright, Mr. Durham has received honors from the National New Play Network, the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, and the Samuel French Off Off Broadway Short Play Festival. Bay Street’s production, directed by Kimille Howard, features Torsten Johnson, Gilliam Williams, and Dante Jeanfelix.

Han van Meegeren, a Dutch art forger, might seem an odd subject for a musical, but Bay Street calls “Dutch Master” a “taut, witty, melodic musical based on a true story.” The play follows the forger’s undoing when he was tried for treason after selling a “Vermeer” painting to the Nazis. Much preferring to be tried for forgery, he confesses, but nobody believes him, and he must prove his innocence by painting a forgery to save his life.

The play, set for Saturday at 8 p.m., is directed by Mr. Pomerantz and stars Santino Fontana and Melissa Errico. Music direction is by Andrew Resnick.

The series will conclude on Sunday at 3 p.m. with “House of India,” which is set in a depressing Midwest strip mall where a traditional Indian restaurant has been vandalized. After the incident, the owner, Ananya, faces a choice: Give up on her late husband’s dream and close, or compromise on her values by turning the restaurant into a nationwide fast-casual Indo-fusion franchise.

A playwright, lyricist, and composer, Mr. Kumar’s plays have been produced with the O’Neill Theatre Center, the National Alliance for Musical Theatre Festival of New Musicals, and the National Asian American Theatre Company. Directed by Zi Alikhan, the play stars Jasmine Sharma, Devon Kolluri, and Tommy Bo.

In addition to the schedule of staged readings, the presentation of the winners of the 2024 Writing the Wave Creative Writing Competition, a playwriting competition for Suffolk County teenagers, will be held on Friday from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Seats for all four New Works performances can be reserved on the theater’s website for a $35 service fee; individual shows cost $15 apiece.

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