When it was founded in 1976, The Humana Festival of New American Plays was unique: It was a centralized showcase of new work from playwrights around the country. Decades later, new play development is no longer consolidated in a single spot, but the festival continues to a enjoy a reputation as a major platform for plays their authors hope will ripple out to stages of every size in the years to come.
I’d never been to Humana, so I was excited by an invitation to Louisville to cover the festival’s closing “industry weekend” with 11 other journalists from around the country, including my pal Michael Phillips, as part of a “pop-up newsroom” called Engine 31. This year’s six-play lineup was the first curated by Obie Award-winning British director Les Waters, who has earned a reputation as a midwife for important new plays by directing premieres from heavy hitters like Sarah Ruhl, Caryl Churchill, and Anne Washburn. The slate Waters programmed featured six new plays. Of the four that I saw, three were sufficiently intriguing to make me want to revisit them. Continue reading