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What To See at the Humana Festival of New American Plays

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Never-before-seen theatre productions, by both emerging and world-renowned playwrights, are debuting next week at Actors Theatre of Louisville as part of the Humana Festival of New American Plays—just as they have been since 1976. With six full-length productions and a night of three 10-minute plays, deciding what to see can be a bit of a challenge. But we’ve got you covered, matching your tastes with the theatrical offerings.

Here is the essential guide to navigating Humana Festival 2015.
An "odd couple" story with a feminist twist.
“The Roommate”by Jen Silverman takes the tired tale of seemingly grossly mismatched roommates and updates it in a smart, culturally relevant way. It centers around the relationship between Sharon, a recent divorcee in her 50s, and her new roommate, Robyn. The differences are evident: Sharon is a Midwestern lady whose comfort zone includes her local book-club, whereas Robyn is a smart-talking vegan from the Bronx. Silverman uses this familiar dynamic to explore questions of self, culture, aging and femininity.
Family drama (the heartfelt, emotionally inciting kind) is your kind of drama.
Colman Domingo’s “Dot” opens on the Shealy family in their West Philadelphia neighborhood. It’s holiday time, which is stressful enough, but this year is different. Dotty, the mother of three adult children, has begun struggling with dementia. This wild and dark comedy—which crackles with the kind of humor that only families can provide—grapples with aging, midlife-crisis and the heart of an inner-city neighborhood.
Modern ghost stories would make your night.
Human life is inevitably haunted by death—a motif that playwright Erin Courtney chose to explore fully in “I Will Be Gone.” After her mother dies, 17-year-old Penelope goes to live with her aunt in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Everyone in the small town, which is right next to a ghost town, is haunted by someone or something. “I Will Be Gone” is filled with apparitions, strange behaviors, and odd attempts at mourning, leaving the audience to grapple with their own beautiful, awkward knowledge that everything eventually comes to an end.
 History brought to life.
Charles Mee sixth Humana Festival play, “The Glory of the World” sparks into action after a series of toasts to Thomas Merton on the occasion of his 100th birthday erupts into a raucous party. Inspired by myriad points of view on the Kentucky-based Trappist monk, writer and social activist—or pacifist, Buddhist, Catholic, Communist, and more, depending on who you ask—Mee’s exuberant play considers how we can live fully in all our contradictions, and leap into the unknown. A theatrical meditation on happiness, love, the values of solitude and of engagement with the world, and seeking heaven on earth.
You’ve always wondered what would have happened if the creators of ‘Star Trek,’ ‘Cabaret’ and ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ collaborated.
In “I Promised Myself to Live Faster,” members of the collaborative troupe Pig Iron Theatre Company and Gregory S. Moss are letting loose with the tale of Tim, a guy just out looking for a good time, when suddenly he is approached by an order of intergalactic nuns. They charge him with a quest: retrieve the Holy Gay Flame from the clutches of the evil emperor to save the race of Homosexuals and restore the balance of power in the universe. But when he’s captured by the fabulously androgynous Ah-Ni, Tim’s chances look bleak.
Bluegrass holds a special place in your heart.
Playwrights Jeff Augustin, Diana Grisanti, Cory Hinkle, and Charise Castro Smith trace the winding history of bluegrass music in “That High Lonesome Sound.” From Scottish ballads to African-American work songs, from Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys to the "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack, the writers put forward scenes that explore the poignancy and playfulness of sounds and cultures that have affected American culture—particularly Kentucky’s—in a profound way.
Your attention span is questionable.
“The Ten-Minute Plays” is for you; a trio of selections culled from the National Ten-Minute Play Contest will have you in and out of the theatre in the same amount of time as a sitcom episode (though you’ll likely feel far more culturally enlightened).
You want it all.
Festival packages are still available—including special discounts for students, locals and industry professionals. They can be purchased here. Productions begin March 4 and run through April 21.

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