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Taylor Mac performs in "A 24-Decade History of Popular Music: 1900-1920s." (Photo by Ian Douglas)

Sundance Lab Selections Feature Otherworldly Themes, Middle Eastern Voices

The new-work development institute’s slate ranging from interplanetary voyages to refugee camps, and many points between.

NEW YORK CITY: Sundance Institute today announced 9 projects selected from 827 submissions for its 2015 Theatre Lab at Sundance Resort in Utah, July 6–26. Under the supervision of artistic director Philip Himberg and producing director Christopher Hibma, the Lab is the centerpiece of the institute’s year-round work with the theatre community and is one of 24 residency labs the Institute hosts each year for independent artists in theatre, film, new media and episodic content.

Said Himberg in a statement, The joy of curating our 2015 Theatre Lab uncovered 9 eclectic and dynamic new plays representing both emerging voices and those of established Sundance Institute alumni. Interestingly, many of this year’s artists write with a bold fantastical vision inhabited by ghosts, Martians, time travel and wild physicality. What is as vital as the work itself is the artistic community that will gather this July in Utah to discover what connects and distinguishes theatrical storytelling. I am especially excited by the inclusion of artists from Morocco, Egypt as well as Palestinian theatremakers.”

Layering in the theatre program’s international work, which for 14 years was focused in East Africa, two artists are joining the lab from the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) as observers as part of the Theatre Program’s new initiative in the region: Sondos Shabayek (based in Cairo, Egypt) & Jaouad Essounani (based in Rabat, Morocco).

The projects selected for the 2015 Sundance Institute Theatre Lab are

  • Phillip Howze’s abominable, a tragicomic story of a family who embark on an affordable vacation days before the husband must depart to war.
  • Annie Salem: An American Tale, adapted from the novel  by Mac Wellman by Rachel Chavkin, who will also direct, along with performer/designer/cocreator Andrew Schneider and composer Heather Christian. Set in both the ruined Rust Belt and on ancient Martian plains, this is described as “part social commentary, part love story, part sci-fi yarn.” The piece is also being developed at the Royal Court.
  • Christopher Oscar Peña’s awe/struck, about two women in Chicago, one a newcomer, the other a nttive, and the chance encounter that transforms their lives forever. Awe/struck is a commission of the Goodman Theatre.
  • Gabrielle Reisman’s Catch the Wall, to be directed by Colette Robert, with choreography by Ro Tyler. It’s a play about two middle-schoolers and their late mentor, a New Orleans bounce MC.
  • Len Jenkin’s Jonah, to be directed by Katherine Owens. The play is a contemporary retelling of the biblical story of the unfaithful servant, featuring a bar band, a storm at sea, the evil city of Nineveh, a Dairy Queen and of course, the whale.
  • Sarah Jones’s Sell/Buy/Date, a multi-character solo play inspired by stories of people, especially women and girls, directly impacted by sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. Sell/Buy/Date is a commission of the NoVo Foundation.
  • Amer Hlehel’s TAHA, in a translation by Amir Nizar Zuabi, which tells the story of celebrated Palestinian refugee poet Taha Muhammad Ali.
  • Taylor Mac’s A 24-Decade History of Popular Music: Featuring TAYLOR MAC, with co-direction by Niegel Smith, music director/arrangement by Matt Ray and costume design by Machine Dazzle. Mac’s durational music-theatre project, a subjective history of the past 240 years in America, incorporates more than 30 different performance art concerts and will culminate in a one-time only 24-hour event.
  • Susan Soon He Stanton’s Today Is My Birthday, to be directed by Kip Fagan, about a woman who retreats home to Hawai’i after her NYC life falls part, and there creates an alter ego on live radio.

The Sundance Institute Theatre Program is supported by an endowment from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, with generous additional support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; Time Warner Foundation; Perry and Martin Granoff; LUMA Foundation; the John and Marcia Price Family Foundation; National Endowment for the Arts; The Shubert Foundation, Inc.; The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust; Karen Lauder; and Joan and George Hornig.

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