Wisconsin Wrights

June 25-27 | Streaming Online

Wisconsin Wrights and Forward Theater Company support and develop new theatrical work, awarding three Wisconsin playwrights with the rare opportunity to develop their plays in a professional public reading series. Because we were unable to produce these staged readings in a traditional setting, the festival was livestreamed on our website and our YouTube channel.

Thursday, June 25th @ 7:00pm: The Year Without a Summer by Greer DuBois
Friday, June 26th @ 7:00pm: Sapiens by Eric Schabla
Saturday, June 27th @ 7:00pm: The Mytilenian Debate by Quan Barry

Sponsors: First Business Bank, Promega, Steve Brown Apartments

THE 2020 PLAYS


The Year Without a Summer

by Greer DuBois

Synopsis (provided by playwright):
It's 1816. Nina Radcliff, a young Englishwoman, goes to visit her aunt in a villa in Italy. Her vacation is interrupted by the arrival of two strange men to her aunt's house. After a series of escalating hijinks, music, and conversations, Nina decides to remain in Italy instead of returning to her repressed life at home.

Director: Jeanne Leep
Dramaturg: Deanie Vallone
Stage Manager: Shannon Heibler

Cast:
Beyle: Whitney Derendinger
Amadeus: Lea Hulsey
Nina: Chantae Miller
Count: Shawn Padley
Captain: Andy White
Matilda: Jessica Jane Witham

Playwright's statement:
In the year 1816, a volcano exploded in Indonesia and gave Europe and North America their coldest summer in a hundred years. The Napoleonic wars had just ended. Price collapses and grain shortages caused millions to starve and disease to spread. And technological and cultural change were happening so fast that nobody in the world knew exactly what the coming century would bring.

A perfect setting for a comedy!

Enter our characters. They're familiar types: the despairing ingenue; the arrogant soldier; the clever friend; the silly romantic; and the world-weary noblewoman. Thrown together with one trunk, two doors, and a fake mustache.

But. Maybe there is more to them than that. For those of us who live in interesting times, we are all required to become a little better than we are. (I'm sure none of us in 2020 know anything about that.) So: donate some money to a good cause. Pour yourself a drink. Enjoy waltzing with us on the thin ice of global catastrophe.

Playwright bio:
Greer DuBois is a Wisconsin-bred, Wisconsin-based writer, performer, and scholar. Their playwriting has been seen at Fermat’s Last Theater (Acting Un-American, 2018). As an actor, they have worked with many companies in Madison and Chicago including Forward Theater, Fermat’s Last Theater, and City Literature. They have published poetry and fiction in journals including Verse Wisconsin and qaartsiluni. They are a graduate of Northwestern University’s theater program (2015) where they studied acting, writing, and poetry.

Sapiens

by Eric Schabla

Synopsis (provided by playwright):
A young PhD student embarks on an ambitious research project in a private wing at a zoo. What she and her colleagues discover behind closed doors leads them to questions of taxonomy, human identity, and the nature of inquiry.

Director: Jake Penner
Dramaturg: Rachel Lynett
Stage Manager: Karen Moeller

Cast:
Stephen: Casem AbuLughod
Topher: Jack Dwyer*
Roy: Di’Monte Henning*
Hugo: Daniel Torres-Rangel
Shae: Deija Richards
Alex: Nadja Simmonds
Harriet: Jennifer Vosters
Dr. Hearst: Jonathan Wainwright*

*Appears courtesy of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

Playwright's statement:
No work of art exists in a vacuum. Sapiens comes, appropriately I hope, at a time of widespread social preoccupation with identity and power, and at a place in history that reflects our deeply fraught kinship with the natural world. My play rests on this precarious intersection, where our relationship to nature mirrors, in some respects, our relationship with each other and ourselves. The thoughts we think, the love we bear, the control we assert, our social bonds, our personhood, our quiet desires and longings are all entangled here.

To that end, I hope this play poses a series of challenging human questions. Why and how do we categorize ourselves and others? How do we love the right way? What is the link between individuals and institutions? Is identity illusory? Where are we to draw moral boundaries in nature? How do knowledge and intellectual progress communicate with power? How much LSD is too much?

I also dearly hope this play yields you its measure of joy. Irony and humor are among the best tools for dismantling our easier assumptions and approaching big ideas with fresh eyes. Where it is irreverent, it is also intentional and seeks to subvert and interrogate. Thanks to Forward Theater for providing the space and resources. Big thanks to all of you for engaging with plays!

Playwright bio:
Eric is an actor and writer based in Wisconsin. His plays have been developed at Forward Theater, American Players Theatre, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre and Two Crows Theatre Company. Later this year, Sapiens will be featured in a reading at Town Stages (NYC) as part of the Sokoloff Arts Fellowship. His poetry has appeared in Ivory Tower Magazine, Burnt Pine Magazine, Pidgeonholes Poetry, and three editions of Z Publishing’s America’s Emerging Poets series. His short film, One Foot In, is slated for production later this summer. As an actor, he has appeared regionally with the Guthrie Theater, American Players Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Utah Shakespeare Festival, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, Kansas Rep, Door County Shakespeare and the Backroom Shakespeare Project, among others.

The Mytilenian Debate

by Quan Barry

Synopsis (provided by playwright):
Latimer is a successful heart surgeon. When his much younger wife, Nina, unexpectedly (and rather ambivalently) gets pregnant post-9/11, Latimer must break the news to his grown daughter, Mary, who is herself newly wed to Charles, a jazz musician with whom she's trying desperately to conceive. Questions of legacy abound as well as the responsibilities inherent in bringing a black child into a complicated world.

Director: Mark H.
Dramaturg: Jen Plants
Stage Manager: Jo Chalhoub

Cast:
Charles: Jeb Burris*
Nina: Olivia Dawson*
Latimer: Gavin Lawrence*
Mary: Samra Teferra

*Appears courtesy of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

Playwright's statement:
As a child pecking away on a manual typewriter, I didn’t know there were different kinds of writing—stories versus poems versus plays versus novels. So several books and many decades later, it should come as no surprise that I’m still not interested in committing to one form. To me, the journey from poet to novelist to playwright has felt like a natural progression as I simply explore the possibilities of narrative. Poetry will always be a sanctuary for me, but sometimes there are stories that cry out for a less lyrical approach.

The Mytilenian Debate is one such story. To me, these are characters we don’t often encounter on the American stage, and as our country enters yet another particularly painful chapter of self-reflection on the impact of race on our interactions with one another, I hope this play, which was written several years ago, can help further the national conversation about the work of redemption both personal and collective. Individually, what is the legacy each of us will leave the world? And what are we willing to rethink, to rectify in the name of justice, which on the personal level is simply called love?

Playwright's bio:
Born in Saigon and raised on Boston’s north shore, Quan Barry is the Halls-Bascom and Vilas Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she directs the Wisconsin Institute of Creative Writing. Barry is the author of six books of fiction and poetry, including the recent novel We Ride Upon Sticks, which O, The Oprah Magazine, describes as, “Spellbinding, wickedly fun . . . Each sentence fizzes like a just-opened bottle of New Coke.”

In 2012, Barry was commissioned to write a ten-minute piece for Book Wings, an arts exchange established by President Obama and President Dmitry Medvedev and funded by the Bureau of Cultural and Educational Affairs at the U.S. State Department. Three Variations on a Theme was performed and broadcast simultaneously at the University of Iowa and the Moscow Art Theatre, the same space where Chekov premiered much of his work. The Mytilenian Debate is her first play.

WHAT IS WISCONSIN WRIGHTS?


Our biennial new play festival that features up to three works by Wisconsin playwrights. After a submission and selection process, selected playwrights communicate with professional directors, dramaturgs, and actors to develop their plays, culminating in public readings at the festival. Each night is dedicated to a single play.

NOTE: Due to current shelter-in-place orders, WI Wrights Play Festival will not be presented in May at Edgewood College. However, an alternate method to view the readings will be available in June. Check this page or follow us on Facebook for details.

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS


We began accepting scripts for Forward Theater's 2020 Wisconsin Wrights New Play Development Project on August 31, 2019. Submission opportunity is now closed. Please visit the Submissions Page for more details.

For additional information: Follow us on Facebook or sign up for our e-newsletter for the 2020 festival submission announcement. Contact WisconsinWrights@forwardtheater.com for additional information.

HISTORY


Wisconsin Wrights was created in fall 2006 through a partnership between the UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies in Theatre, the UW-Madison University Theatre, and Madison Repertory Theatre. The founding partners were joined by Milwaukee Chamber Theatre in 2007 and Forward Theater Company in 2009. Edenfred/Terry Family Foundation supported the Wisconsin Wrights New Play Development Project from the beginning by providing one-week residencies for the three finalists in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, and 2013. Forward Theater Company accepted stewardship of the Wisconsin Wrights program from the UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies in the summer of 2014 and will continue to coordinate the program as a reading series for new works.


PREVIOUS AWARD RECIPIENTS

2017 AWARD RECIPIENTS


Hamm in Love and War by Eric Appleton (Madison)

Synopsis: Benton Hamm, condiment magnate, has come to the island kingdom of Rhipidos to acquire the world's finest olive oil. This hysterical farce follows his travails as he braves chain-smoking artists, hard-drinking art dealers, amateur cookbook authors, tennis with the King, lusty Russian diplomats, and a coup d'etat.


Dionysus on the Down Low by Michael Proft (Cedarburg)

Synopsis: LGBT activist David Okello flees his native Uganda after an anti-homosexuality bill is proposed in Ugandan parliament and his life is threatened. Settling in Boston, MA, with Matthew Teitman, an ACLU LGBT expert who helped him obtain political asylum, the two men embark on a relationship. The play explores where the sexual and political meet, and where disparate cultures, values and desires struggle to find common ground. NOTE: This play contains strong language and sexual situations. It is intended for mature audiences.


No Wake by Erica Berman (Madison)

Synopsis: With determination and a bullhorn, elderly Peter Michaels is on a mission to save the loons of Lake Winnipesaukee, who are dying in record numbers. His summer expectations are thwarted by Sarah, a townie teenager hired to clean the house next door. No Wake tells the story of an intergenerational bond sprung out of loneliness and loss that forces this unlikely pair to confront their fears and teach each other how to move on.

Additional Development:

- Full production at Chamber Theatre in February/March 2020 as part of their 2019-20 season.

- Staged reading at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre in April 2018 as part of the Montgomery Davis Play Development Series.

2015 AWARD RECIPIENTS


In a Clearing by Karen Saari

Synopsis: Set in a small town in Northern Wisconsin, In a Clearing centers around Mark, a newly recovering alcoholic embarking on a relationship with Pam, a childhood friend who has returned home in the wake of a family tragedy. As Mark copes with sobriety, he begins to suffer from flashbacks to an event that may eventually threaten his relationship and the life he is trying to rebuild.

Additional Development:

- In a Clearing was accepted into the PlayLab at the Last Frontier Theatre Conference in Alaska (2017).

- Playwright Karen Saari named finalist for the ATHE Award for Excellence in Playwriting for In a Clearing. (ATHE is the Association for Theatre in Higher Education).

- Member Open Play reading at Playwrights Center in Minneapolis on Oct. 16, 2016.

- Semi-finalist in Capital Stage's Playwrights Revolution (Sacramento).

- Semi-finalist in IATI Theater's Cimientos 2017 (New York City).

Faithless by Michael Proft

Synopsis: In 1906 Boston, journalist Sibyl Wilford O’Bryne interviews the renowned Mary Baker Eddy, 86, founder of Christian Science. Eddy has recently been under attack by Joseph Pulitzer’s gutter press, who dispute Eddy’s mental and physical competency. As the women’s relationship grows, it becomes clear that Eddy is not the only one who is in crisis.

Additional Development:

- Staged reading at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre in May 2016 as part of the Montgomery Davis Play Development Series

Learning to Stay by James DeVita

Synopsis: Adapted from the 2013 novel by Madison-based author Erin Celello, Learning to Stay asks what you would do when the person you're married to is no longer the person you married. Attorney Elise Sabatto is thrilled when her husband returns home in one piece from his military service in Iraq. But as the after-effects of his trauma set in, Elise must find a way to help him – and save herself.

Additional Development:

- World Premiere - Commissioned as part of Forward Theater Company's 2016-17 mainstage season, produced in March 2017

2013 AWARD RECIPIENTS

Waiting by Kimberly Megna Yarnall

Synopsis: Crystal and John are married professionals who shop at REI, and eat canned soup sometimes because it's easier. They also can't get pregnant. Armando and Darla guide the audience along on Crystal and John's quest for a baby, often playing the other characters Crystal and John have to deal with: fertility doctors, nosy colleagues, overly-friendly dentists. It's a story about wanting something and having to wait for it, and how to negotiate life in the interim.

Additional Development:

- Staged Reading at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre in October 2013 as part of The Montgomery Davis Play Development Series

Discovering Austen by Kristin Hammargren

Synopsis: Visit the dressing room of an actor who has been cast as Jane Austen herself. Still searching for the essence of her character only hours from opening, she explores Austen’s writing in an attempt to find the author in the pages of her novels and letters.

Additional Development:

- On April 15th-24th of 2014, Kristin performed the show at 6 libraries around Madison through a Beyond the Page grant.

Coyote Moon by Sam D. White

Synopsis: Life can be hard for a young man just starting out. Especially if you just lost your job, your girlfriend is having your baby and marrying another guy, and, on the next full moon, you're pretty sure you're going to turn into a were-coyote. Maybe the best thing to do is go out back at your mom's country-side tavern, lock a tow chain around your neck, and hope for the best... but then again, maybe not.

Additional Development:

- Produced by the Bartell Theatre in April 2016
- Staged Reading produced by The Bricks Theatre on April 21, 2014, at the Bartell Theatre in conjunction with their production of Oatesland which premiered on April 17, 2014

2011 AWARD RECIPIENTS

Oatesland by Sam D. White

Synopsis: A small 3-person, covert military intelligence team is stationed in an old, abandoned weather station in a remote Antarctic location. Their dubious mission - to spy on a nearby Russian research station. From the onset, things are out of whack. The weather is too warm, rare animals not normally seen are abundant, and a ghostly presence is haunting the station. The long hours and isolation take their toll on the soldiers. A complex set of events and deteriorating mental states send the team spiraling into a dark and inescapable conclusion.

Additional Development:

- Produced by Bartell Theatre in April 2014
- Workshop and staged reading with Forward Theater in May 2012
- Workshop and Staged Reading with The Bricks Theatre in May 2013

October, Before I was Born by Lori Matthews

Synopsis: In the early hours after an industrial explosion, three family members await word on the fate of their loved ones employed at the facility. Martha, Anne and Houston are stranded together in a rural farmhouse, without a car and with only limited information about the unfolding disaster. As Martha attempts to diffuse Anne’s rising hysteria, Houston’s misguided efforts only serve to fuel the emotional explosions building in the family kitchen.

Additional Development:

- Workshop and Staged Reading as part of the Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights in Abingdon, VA in August 2011
- Workshop and Stage Reading with Milwaukee Chamber Theatre in September 2011
- Full Production by The Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia in October 2012
- Full Production by Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, February 19-March 9, 2014

The Kid Thing by Sarah Gubbins

Synopsis: Lesbian couples Lee & Darcy and Nate & Margot are the closest of friends - that is, until a dinner party announcement brings major change. It’s all fun and games until someone mentions “the kid thing” in this new play about attraction, maternal instinct and parenthood.

Additional Development:

- Full Production by the Chicago Dramatists Guild in October 2011

2009 AWARD RECIPIENTS

Broken and Entered by Kurt McGinnis Brown

Synopsis: Vern and Wally inherit the house in the poor neighborhood they grew up in. Vern hatches a plan: throw out everything and then break into houses to fill up the house again with itemsfrom what he imagines are other people's better lives. Wally secretly plans another kind of escape with Jamila, who has moved back to this neighborhood where she too grew up. When these plans clash, this play about race, poverty, rage, and love reaches a brutal climax that reveals the consequences of trying to become a stranger to one's past.

Additional Development:

- Full Production by Milwaukee Chamber Theatre in September 2012
- Staged reading at ART/New York, New York, NY, June 2010. Thom Rivera, director
- Finalist in Reverie Productions Next Generation Playwriting Contest, 2010
- Workshop and staged reading by Milwaukee Chamber Theatre in March 2010 as part of their Montgomery David Play Development Series. Susan Fete, Renaissance Theaterworks, director

The Lightning Bug by Rand Higbee

Synopsis: The year is 1939. The offices of the Magnopolis Daily News are buzzing over the rumored return of Dr. Kasady, the evil genius intent on global domination. As the reporters fight to get the scoop, little do they realize that one of their own, the unassuming Rishamie Reid, holds the key to defeating Kasady and saving the world.

Additional Development:

- Full production at Prince William Sound Community College in Valdez, Alaska, in April of 2011
- Full production at St. Mary's University in Winona, MN, Sept 2010
- Finalist in Lionheart Theatre's 2010 Make the House Roar contest

Kiritsis by David Ray Schanker

Synopsis: The play tells the true story of a small-time real estate developer who in 1977 abducted the mortgage broker who foreclosed on the property where he had hoped to build a strip mall. Anthony Kiritsis held his hostage for three days, venting his frustration on live radio and ultimately on television. The play explores the relationship between the two men - one volatile and anti-religious, the other conservative and devout - in the pressure cooker of the hostage situation.

Additional Development:

- Workshop and staged reading of “Kiritsis” by Forward Theater Company in May 2010
- Forward dedicated their Monologue Festival in February 2011 to David and featured the premiere of a monologue written by him.

2008 AWARD RECIPIENTS

Choke Cherry Corners by Ludmilla Bollow

Synopsis: Tavern & Dance Hall Victims of the Great Depression, a Wisconsin family is forced to live in a closed down tavern and dance hall, once the scene of immigrant celebrations. Auntie Iris, the colorful and gaudy traveling relative arrives for her annual visit on the evening of Celia's twelfth birthday. A night of celebration and family intrigues follows. By morning, all these intertwined lives have been frayed and shredded. A bittersweet portrayal of a Midwest family surviving Depression hard times.

The Front Steps by Marcia Jablonski

Synopsis: The Front Steps chronicles the transformation of a Chicago neighborhood from the mid-1970’s through the start of the new century. An unexpected community of characters is formed as the residents watch their surroundings change from a refuge for immigrants, to a haven for artists and eventually a magnet for real estate speculators. The play also explores the definition of “family.”

Additional Development:

- Staged Reading by Merit Theatre & Film group at Thirteenth Street Repertory Theatre in New York City in March 2013
- Recipient of the first New Work Development Grant, a cooperative effort of the Wisconsin State Arts Board, Edenfred and Overture Center for the Arts
- Full Production at The Alley Stage in Mineral Point, WI, July/August 2010
- Selected by the Madison Repertory Theatre for their 2009 New Play Festival. Unfortunately, the Madison Rep folded prior to this event happening

A Thousand Words by Gwendolyn Rice

Synopsis: When a box of photos and personal papers belonging to Ernest Hemingway is discovered in the back room of a bar in Havana, Cuba, lots of people lay claim to them, including a powerful museum and a woman who says she is the long-lost granddaughter of the photographer. The nature of art, authenticity, marketing, and the power of pictures versus words are explored in this story that alternates between the 1930s and the present day.

Additional Development:

- Co-production by Forward Theater Company (Madison performances Jan/Feb 2012) and Milwaukee Chamber Theatre (Feb/March 2012)
- Staged reading with Milwaukee Chamber Theatre in March 2009

2007 AWARD RECIPIENTS

The Queen of Janesville by Greg Lawless

Synopsis: After a series of disappointing Irish girls, Adam Haviland hires the daughter of an ex-slave to keep his house, which, after a string of lousy investments, he stands to lose. But a far greater threat is the escalating rivalry between his identical twin sons, who stake out opposite sides of the impending Civil War. Caught in the middle is Nettie, who manages business and survival in this dramatic satire about love, money, bigotry and war.

Recovering the Real Me by Kurt McGinnis Brown

Synopsis: It’s a great time to be an alcoholic. Medical science has created a pill that eliminate one’s craving for a drink. You’re cured! And yet. And yet. Boo Champagne, retired from professional baseball at age 30, steps out of a treatment center loaded with pills that eliminate his cravings. He’s a new person, and he intends to say goodbye to his destructive way of life. Yet real people were involved in that life, and Boo becomes entangled in dramas that endanger his recovery. In this play about addiction and identity, Boo finds that killing his former life might involve killing somebody else.

Additional Development:

- Abingdon Theatre Company, New York, NY, January 2009. Tom Rowan, director
- Abingdon Theatre Company, New York, NY, March 2008. Julie Hamberg, director
- Chicago Dramatists, Chicago, IL, October 2007. Richard Shavzin, director
- Madison Repertory Theatre, Madison, WI, October 2007. Trevin Gay, director
- Last Frontier Theatre Conference, Valdez, AK, June 2007. Kurt McGinnis Brown, director

Normal Human Beings by Bruce Murphy

Synopsis: Normal Human Beings is a comic drama set at the time of Bill Clinton’s impeachment. Three old friends, a married couple and their male friend, all in their 40s, see their relationship change when the friend introduces his new “swinger” girlfriend, a former student who happens to resemble the couple’s daughter. The question of what are the boundaries of acceptable sexual behavior drives the action.