Barrington Stage plans a weekend of play readings

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Berkshire Eagle staff

PITTSFIELD — Barrington Stage Company is presenting The PlayWorks Weekend, a staged reading series of new plays, May 10-12, at the St. Germain Stage, 36 Linden St.

The plays are "American Underground" by Brent Askari (7 p.m., May 11); "Citizen Scientist" by Christina Quintana (7 p.m., May 10, and 2 p.m. May 12) and "Grant & Twain" by Elizabeth Diggs (2 p.m., May 11).

"American Underground" and "Citizen Scientist" are the first winners of Barrington Stage's Burman New Play Award. "Grant & Twain" received the Edgerton Foundation Award for New American Plays. "American Underground" will have its fully staged world premiere Oct. 2-20 at BSC's Boyd-Quinson Mainstage.

"PlayWorks allows us to introduce new plays to our audience so they can be involved in following each play's developmental journey," BSC artistic director Julianne Boyd said in a prepared comment. "None of the plays has had a full production. We want to hear the plays aloud and listen to the stories the playwrights want to tell us; the stories they need to tell us."

"American Underground" will be directed by Boyd. In the play, an interracial couple is enjoying a visit from their college-aged son when a young Muslim woman arrives at their back door looking for safe passage via a new Underground Railroad. The cast includes Gabriel Lawrence, Rasha Zamamiri, Veronica Cruz, Ethan St. Germain, and Kathleen McNenny.

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Askari is a Persian-American writer and actor living in Portland, Me. His play "Hard Cell" was part of the 2017 PlayPenn development conference and is being produced as part of Geva Theatre Center's 2018-2019 Mainstage Season. He was part of HBO's New Writers Project and has written screenplays for Paramount Pictures, Marvel Films, MTV and Reveille Entertainment. Brent has acted in numerous theatrical productions across the country and is an ensemble member of Mad Horse Theatre Company. Brent also narrated the nationally syndicated children's television program "Animal Science," which was nominated for a national Daytime Emmy in 2014.

"Citizen Scientist" focuses on an actuary and an astronomer who meet while exploring the starfield for exoplanets and battling their recent losses. Together, they discover the planet Kepler-64b and learn what it means to be present here on Earth. Arpita Mukherjee directs Hehassaiu deGannes, Les Mau, Amy Jo Jackson Andres Santiago Pina, and Helen Piper Coxe.

Quintana is a writer with Cuban and Louisiana roots. She is the recipient of fellowships from MacDowell, Playwrights Realm, Van Lier New Voices at the Lark, Queer/Art, CubaOne and Lambda Literary. Her chapbook of poetry, The Heart Wants, was released from Finishing Line Press in 2016, and her poem "She-lium" was featured on Radiolab in collaboration with Emotive Fruition. An alumnus of Youngblood at Ensemble Studio Theatre and a current WP Lab Member, she holds an MFA in Playwriting from Columbia University School of the Arts.

In Elizabeth Diggs' "Grant & Twain," which had a reading in September at PS21 in Chatham, N.Y., Ulysses Grant's star is rising to new heights while the Union he saved is starkly divided again. Then, at age 62, he is bankrupted in a Wall Street swindle. His friend, Mark Twain, 13 years younger, who idolized the great soldier, makes the wild claim that if he publishes Grant's memoirs, he will make it the biggest success in history. Half-way through the writing, Grant is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Regge Life is directing. The cast includes Victor Slezak as Grant and Kevin O'Rourke as Twain. Also in the cast are Carole Monferdini, Michael Genet, Ethan Botwick, and Nicholas Hyatt.

Diggs, who makes her home in neighboring Columbia County (N.Y.), is a professor of dramatic writing at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. Her plays have been produced Off Broadway and at major regional theaters throughout the U.S. and abroad. Her plays include "Nightingale," "Close Ties," "Goodbye Freddy," "American Beef," "Dumping Ground," "Priceless," "How to Plant a Rose" and "Cluster's Luck." Prizes include the Los Angeles DramaLogue award for playwriting, the CBS/FDG prize and runner-up for the Susan Smith Blackburn prize. Diggs wrote for the TV drama "St. Elsewhere." She is a member of Ensemble Studio Theatre, the Dramatists Guild and PEN.

Ticket information is available by phone at (413) 236-8888 or online at barringtonstageco.org.


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