Perry Mansfield kicks off season with New Works Festival on June 12 |

Perry Mansfield kicks off season with New Works Festival on June 12

14th annual Perry-Mansfield event will draw more than 60 actors to Steamboat

Actor Maria Tucci, who has appeared in Broadway plays, talks with playwright Willy Holtzman, in foreground, at the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts Camp during New Works Festival in June 2010. This year's festival begins June 13 with open rehearsals, readings of newly-developed plays and a dance presentation.

— In two and a half weeks, the rustic, woodsy retreat on Routt County Road 36 known as Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp will come to life with a palpable energy.

To open the camp's 98th summer season, the 14th annual New Works Festival will bring 60 professional actors, directors, dancers and writers to the campus for the innovative development workshop festival from June 13 to 19, overlapping with the first young students to arrive on campus for the Pre-Professional Intensive Program.

Perry-Mansfield Board President Jim Steinberg said the annual festival of new plays and dance presentations is a special experience.

"It's an opportunity not only for us as an organization to be on the ground floor of developing a lot of new work that will be seen throughout country, but it's also a great opportunity for students to come on campus to see what's going on and interact with greats in American theater," Steinberg said.

During the festival, four theater companies from across the country each select a fresh dramatic material and converge on Perry-Mansfield for a week of reading, reworking and rewriting the four plays with professional actors and directors.

Rehearsals are free and open to the public between June 13 and 17. Performances of the final readings will be June 17 to 19.

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Tickets for the play readings are $15, and the lone dance presentation, choreographed by contemporary hip-hop choreographer and dancer Kyle Abraham, costs $20.

The process of realization

Andrew Leynse, the festival's artistic director, also directs the Primary Stages playwright theater company in New York, which will work on "Eat Your Heart Out" during the festival.

The contemporary dark comedic play by Courtney Baron is about a woman dealing with issues of adoption and family.

He said he expects the text to undergo some changes as it's worked throughout the week with the writer and director present.

"Working with actors tells you a lot about the play and what the characters are," he said. "I'm sure Courtney will be listening to her actors and directors and will be putting in changes."

Some of these plays, Leynse said, go on to be performed in full­­

on stages across the country. But the New Works Festival is like a backstage pass to the process.

"As an audience member, being part of the festival you get to see a play without it being fully realized, but you get full performances. You get to imagine the play as you might see it on the stage," he said.

Festival producer Emily Tarquin said the format of the festival as well as the setting contributes to the creative atmosphere of the week.

"People come to it because you get to sample four new plays and a dance presentation in way you wouldn't normally do so," she said. "The event itself creates a kind of excitement — as well as your beautiful background."

Steinberg said watching the process of theater being made in its most raw form is unique to the New Works Festival.

"It's a little better than watching sausage or laws being made," he joked.

Changes abound

Steinberg recently took over for board president Jeffrey Tarnoff, who resigned May 18. Steinberg was president for four years in the late 1990s, has served on the board for 11 years and is co-chairman of the New Works Festival along with Karolynn Lestrud.

He said he's happy to be back as board president and acting executive director after the March 15 resignation of executive director June Lindenmayer.

"Perry-Mansfield means a great deal to me," he said. "I put a lot into the organization and I've always been willing to help it when it needs it."

Steinberg said the board is in the process of developing a search committee for the executive director position. It could take about six months to select someone, an experience he knows quite well from the search 10 years ago that ended with the hiring of Lindenmayer.

He said the programs are in "great shape" for the current summer program season.

"All summer long, you'll find when you come out to campus, there is almost a force field of energy — of creative energy — that's been there for 98 years and continues to build," he said. "It's a very exciting thing to be a part of."

— To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email

If you go

Perry-Mansfield New Works Festival lineup

June 17

■ “Boy Wonders,” directed by Victor Maog, written by Joe Tracz

June 18

■ “Eat Your Heart Out,” directed by Michelle Bossy, written by Courtney Baron

■ “Baby Girl,” directed by Juliette Carillo, written by Octavio Solis

■ Dance presentation by choreographer Kyle Abraham

June 19

■ “Chimera,” conceived and created by Deborah Stein and Suli Holum, text by Deborah Stein.

Performance times to be announced

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