Ashland New Plays Festival to offer plays in March, April

Jackie Apodaca
January 8, 2023

ANPF flagship event remains in the fall, set for Oct. 18-22

By Lee Juillerat for Ashland.News

Two of the six new plays offered by this year’s Ashland New Plays Festival will be performed in March and April in advance of the traditional fall season.

Scheduled for March 25 and 26 are the first-ever workshops and public readings for “Side Effects May Include…” by Lisa Loomer. Set for April 29 and 30 are workshops and readings of “Our Utopia,” by Carlos-Zenen Trujillo. Both plays will be at the Southern Oregon University Main Stage Theatre. Times will be announced at a later date.

ANPF’s flagship event, the annual Fall Festival, will run Oct. 18 to 22, also at SOU. Plays for the four-day event will also be announced later.

In announcing the two upcoming workshops/readings, ANPF artistic director Jackie Apodaca expressed excitement about exposing audiences to new plays. She noted the workshops and readings, which she said are done at a highly professional level, can help playwrights in gauging how audiences respond and can result in script changes or other revisions.

“We do readings with really advanced actors so they feel like live productions,” Apodaca said, noting the readings are part of a play’s development process that allows playwrights to get valuable feedback. “The play is done, finished. It is in a draft. This way the author will be informed.”

And, because the readings include talk-back sessions, she said, “The playwright can ask the audience, ‘What do you think?’”

Apodaca, who has read scripts for both upcoming readings, expressed excitement that festival participants can see and evaluate both “Our Utopia” and “Side Effects May Include….”

“Lisa’s incredible new piece explores the pills we need to keep chasing the American Dream, at what can sometimes be an unfathomable cost,” Apodaca said of “Side Effects.”

She noted the title refers to cautions on medicine and drugs that are typically shown in small print or rapidly spoken in television commercials. She terms the play, “An unflinching look at pharma, consent, and motherhood. I found the early draft of this play harrowing and heartbreaking. It’s a necessary exploration of and for our times.”

Loomer is an experienced playwright and screenwriter who has also worked as an actress and standup comic. She’s known for her play, “The Waiting Room” and co-wrote the screenplay for the film, “Girl Interrupted.” Loomer is no stranger to Southern Oregon audiences. Her play, “Roe v Wade,” was commissioned through the Oregon Shakespeare Festival American Revolution program while another play, “Distracted,” was also produced at OSF.

Also familiar with Ashland is Carlos-Zenen Trujllo, who has performed locally at Southern Oregon University, the Oregon Cabaret Theatre and Shakespeare Festival. His plays include “Christmas Contigo,” which was performed at the Cabaret. Trujillo has a bachelor of fine arts (BFA) degree in Theatre Arts from SOU.

Apodaca said Trujillo’s new play, “Our Utopia,” deals with cults.

“Oregon is home to its share of idealistic dreamers, communes, and cults,” she explained, noting the play “asks what we are willing to give up so that we can belong.”

The workshop will be co-produced by Bag&Baggage Productions and is scheduled have its world premiere this fall at the Vault Theater in Hillsboro.

The ANPF’s flagship event, the annual Fall Festival, will return in October. The complex selection process will determine which plays will be selected. Uniquely, the festival selection process begins with a cross-section of people, about eight to 10 per group, reviewing 350 submissions. Points are given for each submission. The 32 scripts receiving the most points are then read, reviewed and scored by all the evaluators. They are then narrowed to 12, and those finalists are submitted to Apodaca, who will select the final four.

“A lot of people, a lot of discussions. There’s a lot of passionate feelings,” Apodaca said of the process.

She noted a goal is to include readers from a broad cross-section of readers. Most are from the Rogue Valley, but some are from a range of areas. Other new play festivals have paid staff who screen scripts.

Apodaca, who is a theater professor at SOU, is beginning her third year as the festival’s artistic director. She expressed excitement at the coming season, saying, “I remain inspired by our readers and their dedication to our intensive process. I look forward to reading the finalists and programming what I hope will be your favorite season yet.”

Email freelance writer Lee Juillerat at 337lee337@charter.net.

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