New Play Initiative
By Mark Bly
Senior Dramaturg and Director of New Play Development
Last season, Gregory Boyd and I launched the Alley Theatre New Play Initiative with the world premieres of Rajiv Joseph’s Gruesome Playground Injuries, Frank Wildhorn, Jack Murphy, and Gregory Boyd’s musical Wonderland, and Kenneth Lin’s Intelligence-Slave. This groundbreaking Initiative generates and promotes the creative exchange between playwrights, directors, actors, designers and dramaturgs during all phases of a new play’s development through production. This Initiative features commissions, readings, workshops, playwright residencies in Houston and across the country, including an innovative partnership with the internationally renowned UCross Foundation Artists Retreat in Wyoming, full productions of world premieres, and “Affinity Series Symposiums” with the playwrights, the new play collaborators, and local experts whose areas of expertise coincide or have a direct “affinity” with larger societal issues raised by the plays.
Joseph is enjoying continued success as his Gruesome Playground Injuries recently premiered in New York at Second Stage Theatre, and he will have his Broadway debut this spring with Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, directed by Moises Kaufman, acclaimed author of The Laramie Project, and a cast that includes Robin Williams. Joseph was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and recently received a $50,000 United States Artist Fellowship.
A newly revised Wonderland played in January 2011 in a pre-Broadway engagement at the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa, Fla. Since Wonderland closed last February in Houston, the musical has continued to flourish and develop with the addition of numerous new songs, several roles that have been recast, and significant rewrites on the book by Jack Murphy and Gregory Boyd. According to Boyd, “The first time the material was handed to me and Jack it had about 15 different stories. Now it’s Alice’s story, and she’s like an arrow all the way through. We like to say our story is inspired by and completely unfaithful to Lewis Carroll. His story is about a Victorian child and the power of her imaginary world. Ours is about a modern woman with a particular problem, the problem being that she is alienated from whatever her true source is, and she has to find that.” Wonderland will open on Broadway April 17 at the Marquis Theatre.
Here, we lead off our 2011 New Play Initiative with two world premieres from returning Alley Theatre writer Herbert Siguenza, a member of Culture Clash, and Alley Theatre Artist Rajiv Joseph. Siguenza, a virtuosic actor, playwright, and painter, brings to our stage the transformative, ever-evolving genius of Pablo Picasso toward the end of his life at his villa, La Californie, in southern France.
Siguenza has, through a series of workshops, developed the script into a play where, in Siguenza’s words, we watch “Picasso at his most private and most vulnerable.” We get the opportunity to spend a weekend with Picasso in his private studio and encounter the flamboyant, robust artist at his most creative and assailable: facing an epic “tug and pull” between art and politics, a moment that often surfaced in Picasso’s life and work.
This is followed by Joseph’s return to the Alley late this spring with the world premiere of his latest project The Monster at the Door. Meteors are falling, Sirens are calling, and priceless works of art are disappearing from the global headquarters of Connor Fergueson and White, a securities firm with blood on its hands. In this darkly funny play, five very different people are drawn together as the world around them crumbles, and their dreams of health and prosperity are threatened by something terrifying, just outside their door.
In producing these new plays, the Alley provides the fullest production values and support to bring forth and enhance the theatrical poetry and imagination the playwright has poured into the work. This is the primary focal point and purpose of the entire New Play Initiative at the Alley Theatre: for the artists and audience to come together within the imagination of a living, working playwright and to create a first production that will launch the new work to become what we all believe it will be – a play destined to become a classic for the future.