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Playwrights Take The Helm At Louisville's Theatre [502]

MEX theater
Courtesy Kentucky Center

Theatre [502] has always had a penchant for trying new things. Now that philosophy extends into the makeup of the company itself, in the form of two new co-artistic directors: Diana Grisanti and Steve Moulds. 

The company’s original co-artistic directors, Gil Reyes and Amy Attaway are leaving those roles to focus on other work (a third co-founder, Mike Brooks, stepped down in 2016).

Moulds and Grisanti have been the company’s official playwrights-in-residence since 2013, so their artistic output has long been part of the Theatre [502] DNA. 

Together they wrote “The Stranger and Ludlow Quinn,” [502]’s serialized play inspired by the unique Baron’s Theater venue. They’re also the writing team behind “The Two Lobbyists of Verona,” Theatre [502]’s contribution to Kentucky Shakespeare’s 2015 season (and the first world premiere in Kentucky Shakespeare’s nearly 60-year history). 

It seems important to Grisanti that the 502 in Theatre [502] remain honest. “I’m a Louisville native,” she announced proudly. “Like many Louisville natives, I left for a while, and came back.”

Grisanti and Moulds, now married, met while enrolled in the graduate playwriting program at the University of Texas, Austin. Their experience at the prestigious program afforded them professional opportunities at Actors Theatre of Louisville, where they met Reyes and Attaway. 

When the Theatre [502] team wanted to produce a new quality play, it only made sense to use Grisanti and Moulds.

“I think part of the identity of [Theatre [502]] is when presented with an opportunity, take it,” said Grisanti.

That seems to be a philosophy the new artistic directors share.

With Reyes and Attaway still serving as artistic directors emeritus, Grisanti and Moulds are in a good position to take some risks. For example, they plan to abandon the concept of a traditionally-planned theater “season.”

And Moulds hopes to expand [502]’s mission. “We don’t want to say that we’re doing some plays that are Louisville premieres and produced already, and some plays that are new plays. We want to think in terms of projects,” Moulds explained.

Gristanti agreed: “We like projects. Steve and I want to start thinking longer term. Both Steve’s and my playwriting careers have been project oriented. How do I line something up before I’m even writing it? How do I get the team together instead of writing into the void?”

The duo also hopes that rather than planning a year’s worth of content at once – potentially locking them out of exciting production opportunities that can arrive at any time – Theatre [502] will become nimble enough to truly serve its mission. “Thing B will always be lined up while working on Thing A,” Grisanti said. “So folks will know what’s coming next, but not what’s coming after that.”

In this case, Thing A is “Mine,” written by Lexington Native Laura Marks and directed by Moulds. “Mine,” which premiered at the Gift Theatre in Chicago, is a thriller that tells the story of Mari, a new mother who becomes increasingly convinced that the baby in her arms is not hers. It’s a play that asks big questions like, “What is reality?” And, “Can intuition be trusted?” “Mine” opens November 1.

In the spring, [502] will workshop a devised play with seniors in the University of Louisville’s theater department. 

“The idea for that project is to do a reading at the end of the semester, and that season, we’ll produce it in [502]’s season, whatever we come up with,” Grisanti said. The student actors will have first dibs on roles in the full production, a continuation of Theatre [502]’s commitment to using local actors. 

Moulds and Grisanti are also interested in working with theater majors who aren’t actors. “Many of them are designers,” Grisanti said. “We’ll figure out where everyone slots in creatively.”

Also in the spring, [502] plans to perform a reading/workshop of “Gasping Whiteness,” by Will MacAdams, who Grisanti met while working at Actors Theatre. “Gasping Whiteness” is a play about white supremacy, specifically as it relates to parenting, and how even white progressive parents can unknowingly perpetuate racism. Grisanti said all proceeds for that project (after artist fees) will go to a local organization led by people of color.

Grisanti and Moulds seem full of ideas, and eager to give back to the community and mold the next generation of theater artists. Theatre [502] has produced quality theater for nearly a decade, all with an eye toward showing new things to Louisville audiences. The new creative team is determined to carry that philosophy forward into the company's future.

Departing co-artistic director Amy Attaway is a fill-in host on WFPL.

Laura is LPM's Director of Podcasts & Special Projects. Email Laura at lellis@lpm.org.