The Austin Chronicle


By Robert Faires, October 10, 2003, Arts

Playwright Takeover

This might not be big enough news to spur the City Council to rename Austin the "Live Playwright Capital of the World," but it's still pretty impressive. Nine current and alumnus members of the playwright services organization Austin Script Works have qualified as finalists for the Actors Theatre of Louisville's Heideman Award this year. The Heideman is the prize handed out for the top play submitted to ATL's National Ten Minute Play Contest. The award comes with a purse of $1,000 and production at the Humana Festival of New American Plays. How stiff is the competition? Well, it's now to the point that more than 1,500 playwrights submit plays for the contest. Since fewer than 100 make the final cut, that means Austin playwrights constitute at least 10% of this year's finalists. Congratulations then to member playwrights Lowell Bartholomee, Dan Basila, Amparo Garcia-Crow, Greg Romero, Molly Rice (aka Chronicle Arts writer Molly Beth Brenner), and Simon Renwick, as well as ASW alum Colin Swanson, former ASW Artistic Director John Walch, and current Artistic Director Dan Dietz, who won the 2003 Heideman Award for his play Trash Anthem and saw it produced at the Humana Festival earlier this year. The Heideman winner(s) will be announced in December or January. All finalists will be considered for production in the 2004 Humana Festival.

As ASW member Cyndi Williams notes in a congratulatory e-mail, the late David Mark Cohen, ASW founding member and mentor to many Austin playwrights, would be proud.

If You Can Make It There ...

Speaking of ASW playwrights, alum Lisa D'Amour, long a local favorite for her richly imagined, lyrically penned plays (16 Spells to Charm the Beast, SLABBER, dress me blue, window me sky), continues to make her mark in the City That Doesn't Sleep. Earlier this year, D'Amour and friends/collaborators Katie Pearl and Kathy Randels scored Obie Awards for their co-created cabaret Nita and Zita. Now, D'Amour's play Anna Bella Eema, first mounted in Austin in 2001, has been produced in NYC to acclaim from The New York Times. Critic Anita Gates wrote, "This is a skillfully stylized, successfully avant-garde one-act play, even if the symbolism becomes so dense that it's hard to see straight. The melding of [the source material] and Ms. D'Amour's own inspiration make for wise comment on identity, the violence and inevitability of separation, and the value of both adaptation and detailed self-awareness. Katie Pearl has directed the play with dangerous, exhilarating conviction." Meanwhile, the Village Voice's Alexis Soloski praised the show this way: "The mud girl may remain grubby, but Lisa D'Amour's fantastical script for and Katie Pearl's keen direction ... prove far more sparkling. Together they craft a play ineluctably feminine, but not in any way coquettish or retiring. Rather, they engage the mother-daughter bond and the body's betrayals with a fierce, coarse lyricism."

Arts Honors

Congratulations to choreographer and site-specific artist Sally Jacques (where nothing falls, The Well Inside, Ascending on Fields of Air, Body Count) on being recognized by the YWCA of Greater Austin as one of its 2003 YWCA Women of the Year. The YWCA annually honors women who have exhibited excellence in leadership, performance, and mentoring among women in the areas of business, service, education, science/technology, government and health/human services, and the arts. Jacques and the rest of 2003's Women of the Year will be honored in a ceremony this Friday, Oct. 10, at the University of Texas Alumni Center.

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