Theater fans in Pasadena are triply blessed, with the Pasadena Playhouse regularly bringing stars to the stage with its mix of cutting-edge original plays and revivals, and A Noise Within serving up countless classics as a top-notch repertory theatre. And this weekend, The Theatre @ Boston Court presents its annual new play festival PLAY/ground, which features staged readings of five plays in three days.
This year’s festival includes “Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles” by Luis Alfaro, “Mad Beat Hip & Gone” by Steven Dietz, “Hillary and Clinton” by Lucas Hnath, “In a Word” by Lauren Yee, and “Your Name Will Follow You Home” by Carlos Murillo. While they don’t receive full productions in the festival, the readings are taken seriously enough to be performed on the theatre’s main stage and given eight hours of full rehearsal apiece. The plays are selected from playwrights the theatre already has relationships with, as well as through queries from playwrights.
“We read throughout the year, along with the theatre’s head director Jessica Kubzansky, and we will all read the plays that first spark an interest in one of us,” says Emilie Beck, who along with Aaron Henne is one of the theater’s two literary managers. “It’s hard to say what we’re looking for. We have a highly theatrical aesthetic and the kind of plays we’re interested in are hard to fully realize in a reading, because they’re not fourth wall plays. We like to hear them in the air to see if what we’re reading on the page is heightened by the experience of the staged reading before we go all the way with a production.”
“Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles” kicks off the fest at 8 p.m. Friday and is written by Luis Alfaro, continuing his reexamination of the Greek classics through the modern lens that he began in “Oedipus El Rey.” “Mojada” is a breathtaking reimagining of Euripides’ Medea transported to East Los Angeles and follows Mexican seamstress Medea as her struggle to adapt to life in the City of Angels with her husband and son in tow takes a disastrous turn.
“Mad Beat Hip & Gone” by Steven Dietz brings comedic flavor to the fest at 11 a.m. Saturday, as
“an on-the-road comedy with a jazz soul.” It imagines the adventures of the two guys who may have been in the car right behind Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady in 1947.
“Hillary and Clinton” by Lucas Hnath runs at 2:30 p.m. Saturday and presents an alternate planet Earth in 2008, where a woman named Hillary is running for president of the United States but in danger of losing Iowa. When she makes a secret bargain with her husband, anything can happen because this is an alternate universe.
“In a Word” by Lauren Yee hits the stage at 5 p.m. Saturday, and follows a woman named Fiona on the two-year anniversary of the day her young son disappeared. Grief and comedy collide as she forces herself to reinterpret her memories of that dreaded day in an attempt to solve the case before the police finally declare it cold.
Finally, at 11 a.m. Sunday, “Your Name Will Follow You Home” by Carlos Murilo depicts a young Latino author named Danny Santiago whose debut novel provides a gritty and authentic depiction of Chicano life in East LA through the eyes of a teenager. At least it seems real, until questions about his life lead to the unraveling of his work as well.
The Theatre @ Boston Court presents PLAY/Ground from Friday through Sunday at the theater, located at Boston Court Performing Arts Center, 70 North Mentor Ave., Pasadena. Readings are free and open to the public. For reservations call (626) 683-6883 or email JoeM@BostonCourt.org.