New Works Festival Director Andrew Leynse, middle, visits with writers Amy Claussen and Sam Van Wetter on Friday at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp.

Photo by Matt Stensland

New Works Festival Director Andrew Leynse, middle, visits with writers Amy Claussen and Sam Van Wetter on Friday at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp.

Festival brings 3 plays, 1 choreographer to Perry-Mansfield

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Performance schedule

Perry-Mansfield New Works Festival 2009

- "The Bone Orchard," written by Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder and directed by Lawrence Hecht: The Denver Center Theatre Co. presents a play about a girl who wants to die a virgin martyr, until she falls in love with the boy hired to dig her grave. Featuring Chris Mazza, Jenna Panther, Jeanne Paulsen and Larry Paulsen. 8 p.m. Friday in the Main Lodge.

- "Poor Behavior," written by Theresa Rebeck and directed by Marc Masterson: The Actors Theatre of Louisville presents a dark comedy about a weekend visit from old friends gone wrong. Featuring David Wilson Barnes, Bill Camp, Elizabeth Marvel and Laila Robins. 2 p.m. Saturday in the Main Lodge.

- Dance presentation, choreographed by Camille A. Brown: As the festival's guest choreographer, Brown presents new work. Featured dancers include Belen Estrada, Kevin Guy, Juel D. Lane, Keon Thoulouis and accompanying Perry-Mansfield students. 8 p.m. Saturday in the Main Lodge.

- "Bottom of the World," written by Lucy Thurber and directed by Neil Pepe: Atlantic Theater Co. presents a play about love and loss in real and imaginary worlds. Featuring Chris Abbott, Mary Bacon, Patch Darragh, Aubrey Dollar, Emily Landham, Peter Maloney, Mary McCann and Elizabeth Olsen. 4 p.m. Sunday in Julie Harris Theatre.

Tickets to all New Works Festival performances are $15, and are available by calling 879-7125 or 800-430-2787. A weekend package that includes all performances and a festival reception is $50.

Rehearsals for all New Works Festival performances are free and open to the public. There are from 10 a.m. to noon and 2 to 5 p.m. Monday; 9 a.m. to noon and 2 to 6 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday; 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 2 to 6 p.m. Thursday; 9 a.m. to noon and 2 to 5 p.m. Friday; and 9 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday. Locations vary.

The New Noises Studio - a workshop for high school and college students interested in writing for the stage - will give a presentation at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Steinberg Pavilion. Actors participating in the New Works Festival will help perform the students' original plays.

— Playwrights, artistic directors, actors and dancers from across the country will come to Steamboat Springs this week, as they prepare for first readings of new pieces in the 2009 New Works Festival at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp.

In a week of readings and rehearsals, playwrights will pair up with actors and artistic directors from the Denver Center Theatre Co., Actors Theatre of Louisville, New York's Atlantic Theater Company and New York's Primary Stages to work through recently completed plays. Featured choreographer Camille A. Brown will present a new dance work with members of her New York-based company.

Andrew Leynse - who is artistic director at Primary Stages and is in his third year directing the New Works Festival - said the unique setup allows writers a chance to hear their work for the first time.

"It's a very kind of intimate process, where a playwright gets to sit and listen to the performers, and the performers can, in many ways, inform you in ways that you can never quite imagine," Leynse said. Rehearsals and readings of each play will be free and open to the public. Actors will deliver ticketed staged readings Friday through June 21.

The 12th annual festival's lineup includes three plays: "The Bone Orchard," by Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder, an up-and-coming playwright who has done commissions for the Denver Center; "Poor Behavior," by Theresa Rebeck, who has been a writer and producer for several television shows and feature films; and "Bottom of the World," by Lucy Thurber, whose play "Scarcity" opened the 2007-08 Atlantic Theater Co. season. With choreographer Brown added to the performance list, this is the first year the New Works Festival has featured all female writers and composers.

Trying new things

New Works came about 12 years ago, when local photographer and avid theater supporter Jim Steinberg urged Perry-Mansfield to consider a way to develop new pieces. The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust sponsors the festival. Steinberg is co-chairperson, along with Karolynn Lestrud.

"The idea was originally to help develop new works in American theater while also allowing our local people to become involved and see what goes on and how things develop," Steinberg said.

At first, that meant one playwright would come to Perry-Mansfield with a work in hand, and the students and faculty would help prepare the piece. Now, the festival matches selected playwrights with institutions from across the country to bring full casts to the Strawberry Park campus at the beginning of each summer.

"It's a great opportunity for folks in Steamboat Springs to see : how theater is developed, but also to see things in their infancy before they go on to other things," Steinberg said. New Works Festival plays have a strong track record of going into full production within a year or two of leaving Perry-Mansfield.

"A lot of the things that we do get produced very shortly thereafter, which is a great testament to our artistic director and the artistic directors of our companies, because there are a lot of plays that never see the light of day," Steinberg said.

As it did when Charlotte Perry and Portia Mansfield started the camp in 1913, Perry-Mansfield provides a quiet, natural setting for artists to work, Leynse said. Developing dance pieces was a focus for "the ladies" during their time directing the school and camp, Steinberg said.

"Perry-Mansfield has always been about doing new things and breaking boundaries. That's what the ladies were all about, so to a great degree that's what this is about - going back to the origins of what they did and saying let's do new things and develop new things," he said.

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