Lift the Curtain

The lineup for the 44th Humana Festival of New American Plays

By Mariah Kline  |  Photos courtesy of Actors Theatre

Beginning March 1, the 44th Humana Festival of New American Plays will take over Louisville, and Actors Theatre will stage five world-premiere productions. Since its inception, the festival has introduced the plays of more than 400 playwrights and solidified Actors Theatre’s reputation as an incubator and launchpad for emerging artists.

Actors Theatre’s Artistic Director Robert Barry Fleming is thrilled for audiences to see the dynamic new performances. He emphasizes that several talented playwrights submit pieces throughout the year, and their works contribute to the overall mission of the theater organization.

“We stay in conversation with artists who are sharing work that seems to reflect the complexity and wonder of our times,” he says. “It’s true to our mission to really look at human potential in the ways that we intersect, how we build community and how we enrich lives.”

In the current social and cultural climate, Fleming and company are striving to bring more people together through the theatrical arts. He hopes these five plays will inspire new connections and instill hope in audiences.

“With the kind of polarization we’re seeing politically in this nation, we’re finding ourselves at a standstill,” he says. “But it looks like the arts are yet again at the center of moving those conversations toward finding cohesion rather than more division. We’re excited to have plays that give us the chance to dig into some of those things.”

The Lineup, Introducing the works featured in the 44th Humana Festival of New American Plays

Are You There?

by Vivian Barnes, Jonathan Norton and Gab Reisman

directed by Robert Barry Fleming

performed by the actors of the 2019-2020 Professional Training Company

commissioned by Actors Theatre of Louisville

March 1 – April 12

in the Bingham Theatre

Communication is as easy as a push of the button – but are we truly connecting?

From the cacophony of telephone party lines, to CB radios on lonely highways, to the glory days of online chat rooms, technology has revolutionized the way we communicate with each other. But is it always for the better? In this collection of boldly original short plays, three writers and this season’s Professional Training Company explore the high-tech evolution of our social interactions. Are our devices getting in the way of quality, in-person time with our friends and family? Or could they be another pathway to intimacy?

Nicole Clark is Having a Baby

written and directed by Morgan Gould

March 6 – April 12

in the Bingham Theatre

deeply felt, unapologetic comedy about mothers, daughters and the trauma of fatphobia.

Nicole is smart, successful, married to a hot guy – and unapologetically fat. But her formerly fat, now obsessively thin mom, Helen, fixates on Nicole’s weight. When Nicole visits her hometown for her best friend’s baby shower and reveals that she’s also pregnant, mom and daughter are forced to confront how Helen’s difficulty accepting Nicole’s body – and her own – has shaped their relationship. A deeply felt, irreverent comedy about motherhood, fatphobia and the emotional legacy we pass on to our children.

Where the Mountain Meets the Sea

by Jeff Augustin

music by The Bengsons

directed by Joshua Kahan Brody

commissioned by Actors Theatre of Louisville

March 11 – April 12

in the Victor Jory Theatre

This music-filled play traces a Haitian immigrant and his son’s complicated bond and their life-changing journeys across America.

Setting off from Miami, a Haitian immigrant named Jean takes a once-in-a-lifetime road trip out west. Decades later, his son Jonah heads east, following Jean’s route in reverse – and discovering he’s inherited his father’s love of Appalachian folk music. Separated by time, yet side by side, the two men trace their journeys and the complicated bond they share. With lyrical storytelling and live music, this play vividly imagines how a father and son who longed to connect might come to see each other at last.

FLEX

by Candrice Jones

directed by Delicia Turner Sonnenberg

March 18 – April 11

in the Bingham Theatre

powerful new play about swagger, strength and sticking together.

It’s 1997 and the WNBA is changing the game. Every player on Plainnole’s Lady Train basketball team now dreams of going pro – but first, they’ll have to navigate the pressures of being young, black and female in rural Arkansas. Will their fouls off the court tear their team apart? Or can they keep their pact to stick together through hell or high water? With all the adrenaline and swagger of a four-quarter game, Candrice Jones’s powerful new play celebrates the fierce athleticism of women’s basketball.

Grace

by Nolan Williams Jr.

directed by Robert Barry Fleming

March 25 – April 12

in the Pamela Brown Auditorium

soaring musical celebration of family, faith and African-American food traditions.

Every plate holds a story in this celebration of a family’s long history with African-American cooking – inventing recipes to survive hard times, to keep memory alive and to gather together with love. Created by acclaimed composer Nolan Williams Jr., whose vast musical palette ranges from rousing symphonic works to jazz and from gospel to musical theater, Grace unfolds entirely through gorgeous original songs. A soaring tribute to the dishes that carry a complex legacy, infused with a warm spirit of community. V

The 44th Humana Festival of New American Plays will take place March 1 – April 12. To learn more or purchase tickets, visit actorstheatre.org/humana-festival or call the box office at 502.584.1205.