NORTHWEST ARKANSAS – TheatreSquared Artistic Director Robert Ford, Executive Director Martin Miller, and Director of New Play Development Dexter J. Singleton announced today the lineup of new plays for the 15th annual Arkansas New Play Festival (ANPF). New plays featured in staged reading performances will include Saturday Mourning Cartoons by Iraisa Ann Reilly; Nancy by Rhiana Yazzie; I Am Delivered’t by Jonathan Norton; The Grove of Forgetting by Robert Ford; and Raices|Roots by LatinX Theatre Project. Special additional showings include the 2023 Arkansas Young Playwrights Showcase and the ANPF Apprentice Company performance of Rust by Basil Parnell.
Performances will be held in Bentonville at the Momentary (507 SE E St., Bentonville), in Springdale at the Medium (214 S. Main St., Springdale), and in Fayetteville at TheatreSquared (477 W. Spring St., Fayetteville). New Play Passes, granting access to all Northwest Arkansas performances, are on sale now for $50. Passes may be reserved by calling (479) 777-7477 or visiting arkansasnewplayfest.com.
Now in its fifteenth year, The Arkansas New Play Festival has since helped incubate the development of more than 75 new plays. The playwright-focused festival links authors with a director, dramaturg, and professional cast for an intensive laboratory process, culminating in staged reading performances. Through the Festival, TheatreSquared seeks to give voice to playwrights whose timely and relevant stories resonate with the moment we live in—in Arkansas, in mid-America, and as a nation.
“In the last several seasons in particular, many of the plays featured at ANPF have gone on to major productions and award recognition,” says Singleton. “Including At the Wedding by Bryna Turner, which opened at the Lincoln Center in the spring of 2022; Weightless by the Kilbanes, which was nominated for for a Lucille Lortel and Drama Desk Award in its WP Theatre debut this season; Russian Troll Farm by Sarah Gancher, a New York Times Critic’s Pick that received a 2022 Obie Award; and, now, FLEX by Candrice Jones, opening at the Lincoln Center this summer with an all star cast after co-premiering at T2 and being developed at ANPF a few summers ago.”
Singleton says after fifteen years, T2 receives many submissions, all of which are carefully read and considered for the festival.
“Our goal is always to find a diverse set of plays and playwrights that cover a range of topics and genres,” he says. “We want each year’s Festival to have a little bit for everybody just like when we choose our season. This year’s lineup of plays covers that well.”
This year’s selections include:
Saturday Mourning Cartoons by Iraisa Ann Reilly – Jessica and Benny, two millennial, Latino siblings, have a falling out over whether to put their abuela, Yolanda, in a nursing home. Ultimately, Benny wins the argument, and Yolanda is sent to “el home.” When they are no longer able to go inside during visiting hours, the family is forced to confront one another while visiting her at the window. Yolanda will never find herself alone, as she is constantly in the care and presence of a special visitor. Saturday Mourning Cartoons is a play about dealing with change when everything changes at once, and mourning alone in a time of collective mourning.
“It is a play about dealing with change when everything changes at once, which everyone can relate to,” notes Singleton. “It will be exciting to introduce Reilly’s work to a wider audience at ANPF.”
Nancy by Rhiana Yazzie, directed by Ken-Matt Martin – It’s 1985 in Washington, DC, and two women are trying to steer their futures—Nancy Reagan from the White House, orchestrating her husband “Ronnie’s” political career according to daily astrological trends, and Esmeralda, a Navajo mother advocating for her community. Their worlds converge over an unbelievable discovery—Nancy has a direct familial connection to Pocahontas. Strange history collides with 80s nostalgia in this epic story that cuts through the veneer of shoulder pads, neon, and Van Halen with irreverent heart and deep empathy.
“We are so grateful to have Rhiana’s new play as part of this festival, as her work has been seen for years at major theatres across the country,” says Singleton.
I Am Delivered’t by Jonathan Norton – Good Friday. The New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church's Seven Last Words service is in full swing. But outside—on the church parking lot—another resurrection story is taking shape. Sis, the Vice President of Usher Board Number One, and her protégé Pickles find themselves in a battle royale of romantic quagmires. This joyful new comedy introduces theater audiences to the world of Church Usher Board culture and celebrates same-gender-loving church folk and the power and joy of being your authentic self. These are the announcements. Let us govern ourselves accordingly.
“Of course we’ve seen plays set in church, but this one is amongst the usher board which has a set of rules and theatricality all its own within the church,” says Singleton. “Jonathan is a writer on the rise who creates wonderfully rich characters that tie deeply to family, legacy and honoring those who have paved the way.”
The Grove of Forgetting by Robert Ford, directed by Damon Kiely – Summer, 1938. Ilona, a famed concert pianist, refuses to be ruled by fear even as fellow Jewish artists and academics flee Hungary. Budapest is a haven from the growing Nazi fervor—isn’t it? Filled with intrigue, music, and wry humor, The Grove of Forgetting is a taut emotional thriller, as one woman caught in one of history’s darkest moments fights to find her way forward.
“This is a gorgeous new drama that combines Bob’s love of history, music and a good thriller,” says Singleton.
Raices|Roots by LatinX Theatre Project – The newest devised work by Northwest Arkansas’s trailblazing LatinX Theatre Project (LXTP). LXTP is a socially engaged theatre group of professionals and young artists-in-training that is committed to continuing an inclusive conversation about community identity through its devised theatre performances. The content of LXTP’s work not only includes original dialogue, movement, music, poetry, and rap; but also brings a focus to the authentic representation of Latinx voices in the arts and community.
TheatreSquared is also proud to support young playwrights through two additional events. First, the thirteenth annual Arkansas Young Playwright’s Showcase will feature a free performance at TheatreSquared June 25 at 12 pm. Students from across the state have submitted one-act scripts, and the top submission will be selected for mentorship from a professional playwright and a public reading at the Arkansas New Play Festival. Finally, our ANPF Apprentice Company will present Rust by Basil Parnell at 6 pm on June 22 at TheatreSquared, free to the public.
One of the most exciting parts of the festival, says Singleton, is the possibility that you’re going to see the next big thing in New York—right here in Northwest Arkansas. “This is a diverse lineup of powerful, new, thought-provoking plays by a mix of established, well-known writers as well as emerging writers and those newer to the field,” Singleton notes. “You can always say that you saw it at ANPF first. We’re one of the few new play festivals in the region and the only major one in the state of Arkansas. These talented writers are developing work at ANPF, right here in Fayetteville, that will premiere across the country in major theatres for years to come.”
All-Access Pass & Ticket Info: Passes for the 2023 Arkansas New Play Festival are on sale now for $50 and include admission to five staged readings over two weekends. To reserve passes, patrons should call (479) 777-7477 or visit theatre2.org. A limited number of 30 Under 30 discounted passes for patrons under the age of 30 are available as well. Single tickets are on sale now.
About TheatreSquared: TheatreSquared’s signature offering of bold new plays in an intimate setting has driven its growth to become the state’s largest theatre, offering more than 350 performances annually in an intimate setting. Its pioneering work has been recognized with the 2022 Obie Award as well as critical acclaim from The New York Times (“Best Theater of 2020” list), The New Yorker, and The Wall Street Journal. The playwright-led company is one of mid-America’s leading laboratories for new work, having launched more than 70 new plays. Notable collaborators have included Candrice Jones, Bryna Turner, The Kilbanes, Sarah Gancher, José Cruz Gonzalez, Mary Kathryn Nagle, Qui Nguyen, Mona Mansour, Amy Evans, and many others. TheatreSquared’s home—winner of the 2021 International Architecture Award—is a cultural landmark. Offering far-reaching access and education programs and an open-all-day gathering space, the Commons Bar/Café, TheatreSquared remains rooted in its founding vision, that “theatre—done well and with passion—can transform lives and communities.”
Major funding for the TheatreSquared Season 17 is provided by the Walton Family Foundation; the Walmart Foundation; the Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation; the Windgate Foundation; the Shubert Foundation; the Tyson Family Foundation; the Arkansas Arts Council, an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage; the National Endowment for the Arts; Bob and Becky Alexander; Jane Hunt; Margaret and Dick Rutherford; Barbara Shadden; Todd Simmons and Melissa Hall Simmons; and Simmons Foods.
Marketing support for TheatreSquared Season 17 is provided by Experience Fayetteville, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Fayetteville Flyer, 3W Magazine, CitiScapes, KUAF, MailCo USA, 5NEWS, and NWA Daily.