Playwright Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder listens to actress Jenna Panther deliver her lines Tuesday during rehearsal in the Steinberg Pavilion at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Playwright Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder listens to actress Jenna Panther deliver her lines Tuesday during rehearsal in the Steinberg Pavilion at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp.

New Works finds new angles

Writers: Perry-Mansfield festival provides safe place to develop



Actors Jenna Panther and Chris Mazza practice their lines for Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder's play "The Bone Orchard."

Perry-Mansfield New Works Festival 2009

Performance schedule:

- "The Bone Orchard," written by Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder and directed by Lawrence Hecht: The Denver Center Theatre Company 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. 8 p.m. Friday.

- "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. 2 p.m. Saturday.

- Dance presentation, choreographed by Camille A. Brown: As the festival's guest choreographer, Brown presents new work. 8 p.m. Saturday.

- "Bottom of the World," written by Lucy Thurber and directed by Neil Pepe: Atlantic Theater Company presents a play about love and loss in real and imaginary worlds. 4 p.m. Sunday.

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.

A few weeks ago, Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder was pitching her new play, "The Bone Orchard," as "a sweet love story about death."

Two days into rehearsals at the Perry-Mansfield New Works Festival, that theme stayed strong. But "The Bone Orchard" originally focused on a girl who wanted to die a virgin martyr until she met the boy who would dig her grave. Now, the boy is the main character.

"It's become clear that this story is really more about the boy and his journey and how, through her death, he learns how to live his life," Wilder said, taking a break from rehearsals early Tuesday afternoon.

At 8 p.m. Friday, a four-person cast from the Denver Center Theatre Company will give a staged reading of "The Bone Orchard." It will be one of four initial presentations at the New Works Festival. On Monday, Wilder heard her script for the first time. And on Monday night, she rewrote a good chunk of it.

"This play is brand new, and yesterday was really the first time I'd ever heard it read out loud, which was both exciting and terrifying," she said Tuesday.

Later that afternoon, her cast read through the play around a table in the Steinberg Pavilion, working through Wilder's changes.

"I think, for me, one of the goals for this week is to clarify the journey of the main character, so that was one of the main things we talked about yesterday," Wilder said.

She also hopes to "clarify the rules of the world I've created." Her play was commissioned by The Denver Center for the Performing Arts, and it will be directed by Denver Center actor and education faculty member Lawrence Hecht.

In the week leading up to the first public reading of New Works Festival plays, directors and actors from theater companies in New York; Louisville, Ky.; and Denver help writers work through scripts that might be brand new or might already have been through several rounds of edits.

Wilder's "The Bone Orchard" is on the newer end of the spectrum.

Theresa Rebeck, whose play "Poor Behavior" will be presented by the Actors Theatre of Louisville at 2 p.m. Saturday, started her work about a year ago.

A dark comedy about two couples who are spending the weekend together - and the infidelity that plagues that scenario - "Poor Behavior" has had about four drafts, Rebeck said, and it has just a few aspects left to work out.

Until Tuesday afternoon, no one had read the script aloud.

"I've been pretty private about it," Rebeck said, adding that she thought Perry-Mansfield would be a safe venue for an initial public reading.

"You don't have to worry about anything except your work," she said.

- To reach Margaret Hair, call 871-4204 or e-mail


aichempty 7 years, 10 months ago

A common fault among writers who have little worldly experience is that they only have the voices in their heads to guide them.

I think Mary Shelly was the last woman who had an original idea worth writing about. Her novel, "Frankenstein" was based in the scientific breakthroughs of her day which proved that electrical current from crude batteries could cause a dead frog's legs to twitch. Use a little imagination and VOILA! Dead human flesh is brought back to life with a lightening flash!

A few years back, having just received a rejection slip from Random House, I saw an ad for the local literary journal published by CMC (do they still do that?). I went home, sat down at my computer and wrote the dumbest short story I could think of in 45 minutes. I sent it in and won second prize. The sad part is that the joke was on me. I meant for it to be crap.

It's not that hard to write a story. Writing one that somebody else cares about is the trick.

I've seen some real crap produced around here. The one about the gay reindeer a Christmas or two back still stands out as the worst since "Oh, Steamboat" back in 1994 or 1995. Ick.

So, here are the questions that come immediately to mind:

Who was the girl that died? A suicide? A sister, a friend, or the imaginary personality created by the playwright for herself?

A virgin martyr? Because she doesn't like boys? Because the boy she liked in school didn't go for "her type?"

And the grave digger? The boy who killed her by force of his will, leaving her love unrequitted, so that a virgin death was her only alternative to settling for a dope-smoking ski bum in the Coloardo mountains?

I'm working on a script right now that will blow the top off the abuses that run rampant in the doggie day care business. Would anybody like to see it? It's called, "Pet House." It's a story about the abuses endured by pets who cannot speak out for themselves as they are exploited by live web-cams for a profit while their unknowing owners pay day care fees. (Doesn't that make you shiver?)


honestabe 7 years, 10 months ago

aich, you drivel has wasted my time, it is worth less than what i have paid to read it. please spare me any more of your self serving posts. you have become tiresome, and always were.


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