Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A Reading of "queens" at Playwrights' Center

"Now in its 12th year, the Ruth Easton New Play Series gives selected Core Writers 20 hours with collaborators to workshop their script—to write, rewrite, experiment, and shape their work. For playwrights, this means great leaps forward for their plays. For audiences, this means a thrilling and intimate night of theater."

I attended my second "thrilling and intimate night of theater" as part of the 2016-2017 series last night (see also December's Wink by Jen Silverman). It was a clear, cold, snowy, moonlit night, perfect for gathering with fellow theater-lovers and theater-makers to experience a new work of theater. And what an exciting new work Martyna Majok's queens is. Although unfinished (the 3rd act has yet to be written and was described in a few sentences), it drew me right into the world of the play and made me care about these characters. I look forward to seeing the full work onstage sometime in the coming years, but in the meantime, it was a thrill to be a part of the play development process at Playwrights' Center, something they do so well.

The description of queens is: "The lives of two generations of immigrant women in Queens collide in a series of small apartments. When you are working so hard to move forward in America, what cannot—and should not—be left behind?" As always, PWC recruited some of the Twin Cities' best actors, along with a few from outside Minnesota, to workshop the work and perform it in two readings: Annelyse Ahmad, Annie Purcell, Delta Giordano, Jodi Kellogg, Thallis Santesteban, Tracey Maloney (who pulled double duty the night I saw it, filling in for an ill Emily Gunyou Halaas), with direction by Danya Taymor and stage directions read by Heather Bunch.

queens is set squarely in the present (actually the future - July 2017), with some scenes taking place at various timepoints in the past. It tells the stories of immigrant women living in Queens, NY. The playwright herself is originally from Poland, which is perhaps why her characters are so raw and real as they speak of their experiences. Multiple generations, nationalities, and viewpoints all collide to form a picture of immigrant life, specifically in NYC, specifically for women. I was really struck by the sacrifices that these women (and their real-life counterparts) make - giving up home and family - to make a better life for themselves and their families in this country of riches that we take for granted. Even in a simple reading, the play is utterly engrossing, funny and heart-breaking and human.

If you missed this reading, never fear, the Ruth Easton New Play Series continues the first Monday and Tuesday of the month through April. Scheduled plays include (click on title for more details and to make FREE reservations):

February 6-7: Eden Prairie, 1971
by Playwrights' Center Core Writer Mat Smart
On the night Apollo 15 lands on the moon, a draft dodger steals home to Eden Prairie, Minnesota from Canada. He risks arrest to deliver a message to a young woman from his high school class. This beautifully etched play challenges notions of our own bravery and the true cost of freedom.

March 6-7: The Sea & The Stars
by Playwrights' Center Core Writer Harrison David Rivers
Simon is a lifeguard. Finn is terrified of water. Both are adrift, with broken hearts, returning to the tiny beach town of Jupiter and to families who need them. A play about love, karaoke, and the sea.

April 3-4: Minneapolis/St. Paul
by Playwrights’ Center Core Writer Lee Blessing
A celebrated crime novelist leads two different lives, one as Randall, the middle-aged husband and father, and the other as Mandy, the newly-wedded wife and stepmother. In a play that is both poignant and bitingly funny, Mandy/Randall struggles with the complexities and repercussions of an identity too vast to fit within binaries.

I attended a reading of this play earlier this year and am excited to see how it's changed since then.

Also see the Events tab on the PWC website for more opportunities to see readings of new plays, most of which are FREE!