Born in Louisville: A New - Play Gallery

Article excerpt

It STARTED WITH A BANG IN 1977. THERE were only two full-length plays in that first edition of the Humana Festival of New American Plays, but one of them was The Gin Game. D.L. Coburn's tough and funny duet for actors won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama the following year and found a long and rewarding life in the hands of such brilliant acting pairs as Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy and, more recently, Julie Harris and Charles Durning. In the festival's history to date, more than 290 plays have been produced; 75 percent of the work has been published; five plays have been awarded the prestigious Susan Smith Blackburn Prize; other festival plays have been recipients of Pulitzers, American Theatre Critics Awards, Obie awards and other prizes. In addition to the playwrights whose productions are highlighted here, the Humana Festival has been a home-away-from-home for many of the world's finest stage writers--among them Joan Ackermann, Lee Blessing, Constance Congdon, Steven Dietz, Richard Dresser, Elizabeth Egloff, Horton Foote, Brian Friel, Athol Fugard, Wole Soyinka, John Guare, Israel Horovitz, Tina Howe, David Henry Hwang, Naomi Iizuka, David Ives, Ken Jenkins, Wendy Kesselman, Kevin Kling, Tina Landau, Craig Lucas, Eduardo Machado, William Mastrosimone, Heather McDonald, Ellen McLaughlin, Charles L. Mee, Phyllis Nagy, Lynn Nottage, Joyce Carol Oates, John Olive, J. F. O'Keefe, Suzan-Lori Parks, Guillermo Reyes, Jos[acute{e}] Rivera, Enid Rudd, Edwin Sanchez, John Patrick Shanley, Regina Taylor, Megan Terry and Lanford Wilson.

1ST FESTIVAL (1976-77)

The Gin Game

BY D. L. COBURN

1978 PULITZER PRIZE FOR DRAMA

"I was one of the early beneficiaries of Jon Jory's dedication to producing new plays by American playwrights. Jon not only produced The Gin Game, he also made the vital link that my agent claimed for 20 years--he got the script to Hume Cronyn, which assured a life for the play beyond Louisville. I will always be grateful to him."

D.L. Coburn

2ND FESTIVAL (1977-78)

Getting Out

BY MARSHA NORMAN

"After Getting Out, I remember that wave hitting me when the crowd broke through the back door of the bar and suddenly people were screaming everywhere. Hugging everybody. Board members in business suits were slapping each others' backs and lifting actresses in the air. The bar rocked like a ship in a gale. I tried to regain my balance, but there was no balance to be had. People were in shock, they had not figured a first-time playwright for any more than a beginner. But in the space of one two-hour drama, everything had changed. They had a major star [Susan Kingsley] and a hit play right there in front of them. Whoever dreams of such a thing?"

Marsha Norman, quoted in ATL's 25th-anniversary commemorative magazine, published in 1988

3RD FESTIVAL (1978-79)

Crimes of the Heart

BY BETH HENLEY

1981 PULITZER PRIZE FOR DRAMA

"All this acclaim is just the way the cards happened to fall, My kind of writing happens to be salable these days. I'm sure there are a lot of talented people out there who aren't writing plays, but working in factories while they wait for someone to discover their stuff."

Beth Henley in an interview with the New York Times after she won the Pulitzer

4TH FESTIVAL (1979-80)

Agnes of God

BY JOHN PIELMEIER

"If the O'Neill Conference laid the track for my early career, Jon Jory drove the engine. …