When it was founded in 1976, The Humana
Festival of New American Plays was unique: It was a centralized showcase
of new work from playwrights around the country. Decades later, new
play development is no longer consolidated in a single spot, but the
festival continues to a enjoy a reputation as a major platform for plays
their authors hope will ripple out to stages of every size in the years
to come.I’d never been to Humana, so I was excited by an
invitation to Louisville to cover the festival’s closing “industry
weekend” with 11 other journalists from around the country, including my
pal Michael Phillips, as part of a "pop-up newsroom" called Engine 31. This year’s lineup was the first curated by Obie Award-winning British director Les Waters, who has earned a reputation as a midwife for important new plays by directing premieres from heavy hitters like Sarah Ruhl, Caryl Churchill, and Anne Washburn.
The slate Waters programmed featured six new plays (plus a
closing-night showcase of 10-minute plays, a festival tradition). I
caught four of those, of which three were sufficiently intriguing to
make me want to revisit them.