By Kellen Stepler
Duquesne University’s Genesius Theater is home to Duquesne’s Red Masquers, the Spotlight Musical Theater Company and the Mary Pappert School of Music.
And now, it’s home to the Pittsburgh New Works Festival (PNWF) in the festival’s 29th year. For the past six years, the event was held at Carnegie Stages.
The festival showcases one-act plays, varying between 15 and 45 minutes long. Playwrights come from as far away as New Zealand and as close as Pittsburgh to showcase their talents.
Aug. 18 marked the start for LabWorks, which are staged readings each day “that give the producing companies the flexibility to explore the scripts in everything from seated reading to full productions,” according to the PNWF website.
From Sept. 5-29, PNWF presents 12 one-act plays in rotating programs, called Mainstage, Thursday through Sunday.
LabWorks performances are only performed one time each, while the Mainstage performances are performed five times each.
Post show, there will be meet and greets with cast and crew, plus free food and beverages, on Thursday evenings in the theater lobby.
Marisa Corona, marketing manager for the board of directors for PNWF, says that PNWF is “ecstatic” to bring the festival to Genesius Theater.
“It’s a great centralized location for our current and growing community. The recently renovated venue is perfect in size and function, which enables the ability to have multiple theatre companies utilize week after week to fit their vision for the shows they are producing,” Corona said.
Additionally, a connection between Duquesne and PNWF helped the event move to Genesius Theater.
“John Lane, assistant professor and director of the theatre arts program at Duquesne, is also a PNWF Board Member and was able to connect us with this opportunity,” Corona said.
Lane said that the festival “dovetailed perfectly with [The Red Masquers’] season.”
“It gives our majors and minors a chance to work with 18 different theater companies from around the area and playwrights from around the world. It also gives all Duquesne students a chance to see new and original works,” Lane said.
PNWF was founded in 1991, and is a non-profit organization with a mission of encouraging and supporting the writing and production of original one-act plays. According to the PNWF mission statement, “PNWF has served as a collaborative organization, pooling the talents and rich resources of western Pennsylvania’s emerging theater community and playwrights from around the world in a series of creative activities.”
Andy Coleman, managing director of PNWF, notes the impact the festival has on the Pittsburgh community.
“It has served as a fantastic incubator for producing new work, providing hundreds of theatrical opportunities to members of our vibrant performing arts scene and has a positive economic impact on Pittsburgh as a whole as well,” Coleman said.
“Between the actors, producers, directors, playwrights, board members and everyone in-between who made this festival possible throughout the years, we’ve established countless opportunities and relationships that’s benefited everyone involved in profound ways,” Corona said.
Lane echoes the idea of community.
“It is also a chance to show off the new Genesius Theater and help create an atmosphere of cooperation and support between local arts groups,” Lane said.
PNWF also helps playwrights build careers in theater arts.
“Some playwrights move on from our festival to pretty impressive careers in the theatre arts, including writing for TV shows like General Hospital and making a significant impact for the theatre community of Pittsburgh,” Corona said.
The festival takes submissions from playwrights around the world and chooses 18 to be paired with and staged by local theater companies. Six of the plays are staged during LabWorks, while the other 12 plays will be performed during Mainstage.
Mainstage Program A will run from Sept. 5-14. The three plays that make up Program A are Who’s Afraid?, by Jeff DeSantis about a villainous literary character who gets to tell the world his side of the story on a talk show; A Learning Experience by Michael Wolfson about a man’s experience at a diner; and The Setup by PJ Roup about a married couple trying to setup their two single friends with a generational gap who want no part of being together.
Mainstage Program B will run from Sept. 6-15. This program will feature Like Mom Used to Say…, by F.J. Hartland about being “slapped with the truth than kissed with a lie,”; All Over But The Shooting, by Phil Keeling where a disgraced pop star and an aging idol try to reclaim the spotlight but one of them has to die; and Statin Eye-Land Fairy, by Richard Manley about a man’s trip and troubles on a Staten Island Ferry.
Mainstage Program C runs from Sept. 19-28. The Island, by Joe Breen, is about two teens running away from their summer camps; #NotMeAnymore, by Garry Kluger featuring murder, mystery and mayhem; and Oedipus, but Better, by Brian Scanlan about five young actors without budget or time trying to put on the best 45 minute production of Oedipus Rex that anyone has ever seen.
Mainstage Program D caps the festival and will run from Sept. 20-29. This will include The Scottish Loo, by J. Thalia Cunningham where Lady MacBeth and Hillary Clinton meet at a mythical political convention; Charlotte’s Revival, by Ben Scranton where a man runs into a woman named Charlotte who upends his world and he has to choose between right and wrong; and Eternal Hellfire and Damnation: A Love Story, by Maury Zeff, about a Roman god love story.
“This festival to me embodies the best of Pittsburgh and the heart of its people. It’s a community of like-minded individuals who gather to collaborate on something they are passionate about in service for the greater community,” Corona said.
A festival pass is $50; single programs are $17 ($20 at the door). Tickets are $15 for students with a valid Student ID. For a schedule and tickets, visit pittsburghnewworks.org.