DAVID KWIATKOWSKI – STAFF WRITER
Amidst all the uncertainty of this year’s programming, one thing is for certain: Chautauqua Theater Company’s New Play Workshops are back this season.
CTC Managing Director Sarah Clare Corporandy has loved seeing this program blossom over the years, especially since all theater programs shifted online during 2020.
“We’re laying the pathway for the bridge for those plays to go from one step to the next, and that’s core to our action,” Corporandy said. “To be able to do it in any form is really important, and I’m always reminded how much Chautauquans love it when we get in the room with the new playwrights because … they have questions, they want to talk about it.”
The New Play Workshops are supported by the Roe Green Foundation; Corporandy said that Green, the foundation’s CEO, has been “a great supporter for over 10 years.”
“She’s a really important part of that process and another wonderful example to me of — (we’ve got) artists, we’ve got actors, we’ve got writers, we’ve got administrators and technicians, we have community members, we have donors — all of these people coming together because we care about the work,” Corporandy said.
The week of New Play Workshops started Monday at the Jessica Trapasso Memorial Pavilion at Children’s School, when playwright Juliette Carrillo saw her new play Tailbone read aloud for the first time. Tailbone follows a woman named Anabelle who is determined to take her next relationship in baby steps, but when her new beau gets flooded out of his apartment, she’s quick to suggest he stay with her.
Despite the strained circumstances and Anabelle’s overly zealous imagination, it could be an ideal match — only the always-present otherworldly roommate has his own intentions. An inquiry into what we do to avoid true intimacy, Tailbone is part comedy, part mystery, and part spiritual quest.
“It’ll be the first time I hear it, so I’m really excited about that, and I’m really excited to have a live audience and have a conversation with (people) about it,” Carrillo said Monday. “That will actually help me take the play to the next level. That’s what I’m hoping for. Of course, like any playwright, I’m hoping that it will eventually be in production.”
Tailbone is different than Carrillo’s previous works as it has a smaller cast, but carries the throughline she has in her plays of exploring hidden worlds in humanity.
“I wanted to do a small comedy with three people, and I wanted it to be relationship focused,” Carrillo said. “One of the things that I’m most interested in is the kind of worlds that we cannot see and heightened realities.”
At 4 p.m. today in Smith Wilkes Hall, playwright Kristoffer Diaz will be debuting a reworked draft of his new play Rebecca Oaxaca Lays Down A Bunt. The play follows a woman named Ella who can’t wait to start her new job as the upstairs concierge at a sleek hotel. Catering to celebrity guests is her dream — but it’s hard to keep track of which guests are in which room, which guest is the biggest celebrity and which party-loving guests need extra supervision. Diaz got the idea to skewer the fame-obsessed society of America early in his career when he stayed in several hotels while traveling for work.
“(I was) always sort of struck by hotels in really interesting places, kind of weird places sometimes,” Diaz said. “Being around rich and famous people for the first time, there’s a whole different way of approaching life and a certain sense of entitlement sometimes and a certain sense of what the good life means to different people. I come from working-class folks and it’s always somebody’s job to take care of those people who are living the good life.”
Like Carrillo’s Tailbone, Rebecca Oaxaca Lays Down A Bunt is a comedy, a departure from Diaz’s other plays.
“Comedy is hard to do in a quick-reading scenario like this,” Diaz said. “We’re going to be hearing this new draft for the first time. … I tend to write about big serious ideas and things like that and there are serious ideas underneath here, (but) largely, this one is fun and super silly.”
Corporandy believes that playwrights getting to hear their works read aloud for the first time and hearing feedback is the “beautiful transaction” of the New Play Workshop.
“(Getting) to ask the audience some questions about things that they are still working on, or things they are wondering to (get) a sense of what their intention was for the play is coming through, is such a gift to the playwright,” she said.