Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
AIRDATE: APRIL 23, 2010
Okay, listen up, cause I have a lot to tell you. But first, let’s lay some groundwork. If you’re a theaterlover, you don’t just covet the classics. You want to see what’s new, what’s hot, what creative light is breaking over the horizon. And there’s no better place to get a bird’s eye view than at the Baldwin New Play Festival at UC San Diego. It’s quite the cornucopia this year: three full-length plays, two one-acts, and a reading of the winner of the Dr. Floyd Gaffney National Playwriting Competition. The settings range from high school to Rwanda to the night of Obama’s inauguration.
I don’t know how many you have the time to see, so maybe I’ll just tell you about the one-acts, written by the first-year students in the acclaimed 3-year MFA program in playwriting at UCSD. Let me just say that all these student writers are the crème de la crème in the country. The program is highly selective. Those accepted have already amassed extensive bios before they set foot in La Jolla . One reason these already-accomplished pros come here is to spend three years focusing on nothing but their writing. It’s a thrilling experience for them, and lucky us! — we get to savor the fruits of their labor. We also get the benefit of all the other Master’s students in theater: the excellent designers and terrific actors.
The most haunting of the long plays is Stephanie Timm’s “Everything Nice,” about bullying, retaliation, guilt and recrimination in high school girls. It all comes to a head at the 20-year reunion, when the ghosts of long ago just will not go away. Jeff Wienckowski directs this searing psychological thriller that makes your intellectual/emotional hairs stand on end.
I also couldn’t get the two one-acts out of my mind. “In a Word,” by Lauren Yee, ingeniously staged by the Patté Award-winning director Adam Arian, is about the aftermath of the disappearance of an 8 year-old boy, and how the event has impacted and fractured his parents. Words are at the core of her search for her son, her memories of the events of that horrific day, and the attempt to reclaim her marriage and her life. word-play , misunderstanding, words written, chosen, replaced, deconstructed. It’s wonderfully imaginative and heartbreaking. And outstandingly performed.
“ Muzungu ” is the Kinyarwanda word for ‘white man.’ in this haunting play of the same name, by David Myers, sensitively helmed by xx-year MFA director Anthony Luciano , a well-meaning, do-gooder American man meets a stalwart but damaged Rwandan woman. Though he comes to provide assistance, it’s he who gets an education. Both their lives are changed, in ways neither expected.
Both plays feature a large dose of anguish and unearthly journeys of the heart. See as many of these shows as you can. You won’t be sorry.
The Baldwin New Play Festival runs through April 24, at UC San Diego in La Jolla .
©2010 PAT LAUNER