Barrington Stage Company's first new play contest winner set for world premiere this summer


PITTSFIELD — The first grand prize winner of Barrington Stage Company's Bonnie & Terry Burman New Play Award will have its world premiere this summer at BSC's St. Germain Stage.

Stacey Rose's "America V. 2.1: The Sad Demise & Eventual Extinction of the American Negro" is scheduled to begin previews June 14 in BSC's newly expanded second stage at the Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center on Linden Street, where it is scheduled to run through June 30. Press opening is June 30.

The Bonnie & Terry Burman New Play Award's top prize carries with it not only a world premiere production but also a $25,000 award to the playwright.

"I am so excited to be here," Rose said at a Friday news conference at BSC's Wolfson Center on North Street. "I grew up in a housing project in New Jersey (and) began writing in 2002 but didn't take it seriously until 2013 when I was at (NYU's Tisch School of the Arts). This prize has put me in such a good position to continue writing. Playwriting is a risk. I am so glad Barrington Stage (also) is taking such a risk with this award."

Set in a not-far-off USA, "America V. 2.1..." is described as "a day in the life of a troupe of Black actors who are charged with re-enacting the revised history of the once-thriving American Negro. It quickly becomes a day of reckoning as the troupe is forced to face the parallels their own lives draw to the lives of the very Negroes whose stories they are compelled to tell."

"It is very, very funny, until it isn't," BSC artistic director Julianne Boyd said during the news conference. "I love plays that ambush an audience."

Boyd will direct a Burman Award runner-up, Brent Askari's "American Underground," on BSC's Boyd-Quinson Mainstage in June. Also set in a not-faraway future America, this play deals with a college-aged son's visit to his parents, an interracial couple, that is interrupted by the arrival of a Muslim woman looking to escape America via a new Underground Railroad.

Beyond its political implications, Boyd characterized "American Underground" as "a down-and-out thriller."

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Boyd said there were 461 submissions for the Burman Award from which nine finalists were culled over a period of a year. Two of the nine already were promised world premieres elsewhere leaving only seven finalists from which the plays by Rose, Askari and Christina Quintana were chosen. Askari and Quintana will receive $5,000 each and Quintana's play will be given a reading.

"We were looking for talented undiscovered playwrights who are just on the cusp," Boyd said.

Joining Rose's play in the St. Germain Stage are:

- "Hold These Truths" by Jeanne Sakata, May 22-June 8, a one-actor play based on the true story of a Japanese-American, Gordon Hirabyashi, who refused to report to a World War II Japanese internment camp in the U.S. and took his case to the U.S. Supreme Court;

- "Time Flies and Other Comedies" by David Ives, July 5-27, six short comedies by one of America's leading comedy playwrights;

- and "If I Forget" by Steven Levenson, Aug. 1-31, about three siblings who have come home to celebrate the 75th birthday of their father, a Holocaust survivor.

Between its previously announced mainstage selections and its newly announced second stage and Youth Theatre schedules, BSC's 25th anniversary season includes four world premieres and one new play, Mark St. Germain's "Gertrude and Claudius," which is having its world premiere now at Orlando Shakespeare Festival. Boyd said she defines a "new play" as one that is being given its first or second production.

In addition to the two new play contest winners, BSC will present the world premieres of "Fall Springs," a new musical by Niko Tsakalakos (music and lyrics) and Peter Sinn Natrieb (book and lyrics), Aug. 9-31 on the Boyd-Quinson Mainstage; and Ragtag Theatre's "Hansel and Gretel" in the Youth Theatre. Commissioned by BSC, this production, Boyd said, will be partially created before rehearsals begin here and completed by the youngsters in the cast. The idea, Boyd said, is to give children a first-hand experience of the theater-making process.

"This is the season I have always dreamed about," Boyd said. "It's a season that will involve the community (in a variety of ways) with plays that give people something to talk about when they leave the theater."


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