Thursday, October 15, 2009
SCR has chosen Amy Freed, the playwright behind last year’s hilarious You, Nero, as the recipient of its 2009 Steinberg Commission.
A commission, in the art world, means paying an artist to create something especially for you. In this particular case, it means Freed is writing a new play just for SCR, with money provided by a grant from the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust.
Freed’s plays most often take the form of dark comedy. They are ambitiously epic and smartly mine history for laughs.
“Life is kind of surreal,” she says, “and the collisions of absurdity and grief and silliness are what laughter comes from and what tears come from.”
SCR’s Steinberg Commissions are specifically designed for mid-career playwrights, because other commissioning groups often overlook these writers in favor of either emerging or well-known playwrights. Many a mid-career playwright has dedicated years to writing for the theatre only to find that he or she can’t make a living that way. Often, the theatre loses those writers to the higher-paying worlds of television or film. SCR and the Steinberg Trust want to keep that from happening.
Past commission recipients include Jose Rivera, who used the grant to develop Boleros for the Disenchanted, and Tracy Letts, who received his commission just before vaulting to the top of the American theatre world with his Pulitzer—and Tony—winning August: Osage County. SCR is first in line for Letts’ next play, thanks to the Steinberg Commission.
Amy Freed has been writing plays since 1991, when she turned to writing after an unfulfilling acting career. She gained a national reputation when her play The Psychic Life of Savages won the Charles MacArthur Award for outstanding new play in 1995.
In 1998, her play Freedomland, an SCR commission and world premiere, became a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and went on to play at many regional theatres. She followed Freedomland with her most successful play to date, The Beard of Avon (also commissioned and premiered by SCR), a tongue-in-cheek look at the Shakespeare authorship controversy.
Freed’s other plays include Safe in Hell, Still Warm, Claustrophilia and The Ghoul of Amherst. When she’s not penning plays, Freed teaches playwriting and acting at Stanford University.
Meet Bob. Born in a White Castle bathroom on Valentine’s Day, Bob is immediately abandoned by his mother. Luckily, he is taken in by Jeanine, a White Castle employee who once opened a fortune cookie that told her she would be mother to a great man. Thus begins a most unconventional childhood, followed by an equally unconventional adulthood.
Bob is the star of BOB, a play by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb that will kick off SCR’s 2009-2010 NewSCRipts readings series at 7:30pm on Oct. 26.
This offbeat, epic story follows Bob over 50-plus years as he tries to fulfill his adopted mother’s dream for him. His quest takes him from job to job and town to town, always in search of a place where he belongs. Sometimes sad, sometimes funny, the play raises interesting questions about destiny, family and contentment. Happiness, Bob discovers, is elusive, but not out of reach.
The annual NewSCRipts series of three Monday evening play readings was launched in 1985 as a way to bring the audience into the process of creating new work. After each reading, audience members engage in lively exchanges with the playwright and become active participants in the play’s development, providing invaluable feedback for the writer. Plays selected for the NewSCRipts series have earned six Pulitzer Prize nominations, with Margaret Edson’s Wit winning the prize in 1999.
Nachtrieb is a San Francisco-based playwright whose works include boom, Hunter Gatherers, Colorado, T.I.C. (Trenchcoat In Common) and Multiplex. Hunter Gatherers received the 2007 American Theatre Critics Association/Steinberg New Play Award for best new play to premiere outside of New York and the 2007 Will Glickman Prize for best new play in the Bay Area. He is a resident playwright at the Playwrights Foundation, San Francisco, and holds a degree in theater and biology from Brown and an MFA in creative writing from San Francisco State University.
SCR commissioned Nachtrieb to write BOB.
Tickets to the reading, which will take place Oct. 26 at 7:30pm on the Argyros Stage, are $12, and can be purchased online at www.scr.org, by phone at (714) 708-5555 or in person at the SCR box office.
Learn more about NewSCRipts.