June 14, 2007

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Play per day
Yellow Taxi gives free shows during ‘365 Days/365 Plays’
By Heidi Masek hmasek@hippopress.com

Suzan-Lori Parks is the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for Drama (Topdog/Underdog, 2002). She’s a MacArthur “Genius” Award recipient. She has an OBIE Best Play award for The America Play. She wrote the screenplay for the TV adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and a screenplay for Spike Lee’s Girl 6.

But Parks’ latest project is more grassroots. In 2002, she started writing a play each day for a year. Now, theater groups across America and elsewhere are claiming a week’s worth of her scripts in the 365 Plays/365 Days project.

Yellow Taxi Productions performs all of the Week 32 plays in the relay Thursday, June 21, in downtown Nashua at Fody’s Tavern, the Hunt Memorial Building and Nashua Public Library. Viewers are encouraged to walk between the venues. Two rotations will probably start at 6:30 and 6:45 p.m. Admission is free.

Script topics vary widely, said Tajoura Davis, who is producing YTP’s week.

“They are very short pieces but have very meaningful story lines that give the directors a chance to show their skills,” Davis said.

Theaters are usually competing to produce the next masterpiece, but Parks’ project has fostered connections among theater folk and makes shows accessible to both the immediate community and performers, said T. Paul Lowry of the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Conn. He heads the northeast network of 365 Plays/365 Days.

“I like theater that challenges the construct of what the vast majority of the public and even the industry’s concept of what theater is,” Lowry said.

This project has “leveled the playing field” in that regional professional theaters and small community groups all pay the same — $3.65 to participate and $1 per play license — and the plays are performed for free, Lowry said.

In Week 32, “Father Comes Home from War” shows estrangement within a couple.

“It ranges from things like that, to a very light, or maybe not so light, artsy piece about throwing tomatoes,” Davis said. “Remember Juneteenth” involves a writer and a woman who might be a stalker. The stage is flooded with freed slaves as the woman asks for an autograph. In “Quiver,” a woman’s servant becomes her archery target.

“A lot of these can be left up to interpretation,” Davis said.

Mary Valentine King, Anabelle Graetz, Melanie Chicoine and Meron Langsner direct for YTP — Langsner has already directed a 365 play for the Zeitgeist in Boston. Lowell Williams, Greg Josselyn, Susan Rundbaken, Barbara Lawler and Peter Saati also participate. All are volunteers.

By June 8, Week 31 and 33 were still unclaimed in the northeast network but Lowry said New Haven Theatre Company will cover them to keep the relay going. The northeast network formed just a month before the plays started in November 2006, and now has about 80 groups. In New Hampshire, Hanover performance artist Bill Coons had Week 6 and Performers Playhouse of Newport had Week 22. Sunapee Kearsarge Intercommunity Theatre took Week 44 in September and Nashua Performing Arts Club at New Hampshire Community Technical College has Week 47 in October.

“I had met the playwright many years ago when I lived in New York,” Tom Dunn of NHCTC said. Parks was just out of college when Dunn was running a workshop for playwrights off Broadway. “It’s nice to see things happen for people,” Dunn said.

Dunn’s students will use campus elements including elevators to do a show during lunch each day, which will also serve to advertise evening performances of the full rotation, promote Suzan-Lori Parks and recruit students to the club.

“For us it’s perfect,” Dunn said. “I’m hoping some other playwright comes up with a different version next year.”

The thing
365days365plays.com: Read the play of the day.

stagesource.org: Check the northeast 365 Days/365 Plays calendar.

yellowtaxiproductions.org: Updates on Nashua’s 365 Days/365 Plays performances..



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