Great Barrington, Mass.– Berkshire Playwrights Lab announced the titles and directors of its next three staged readings of new plays. Release Point by Gino DiIorio, directed by Jeff Zinn will be presented on July 11; Apeshit by Philip Gerson, directed by Bob Jaffe on July 23; and Existing Privilege by James DeMarse, directed by Matthew Penn on August 8. The last reading of the season on August 22 is TBA. All of these performances will take place at 7:30pm at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center (14 Castle Street, Great Barrington, Mass.). There is no charge for admission, however, Berkshire Playwrights Lab suggests a $10.00 donation to help offset its programming costs. For reservations, call 413.528.0100 or visit the Mahaiwe box office in person. For more information, see www.berkshireplaywrightslab.org.
Release Point by Gino DiIorio – July 11
Gino DiIorio’s Release Point is the story of Mike, a former coach, just released from prison. Mike lives in the garage of a motel on the outskirts of town, piecing together a living doing odd jobs. He has few illusions regarding his chances on the outside and is holding on as best as he can. Upon his release, Mike begins the difficult and almost impossible task of reconnecting with his son and daughter the only way he knows how—through baseball.
“Release Point touches on themes of guilt, shame, persecution, and redemption. The skill of the playwright, Gino DiIorio, is evident from the start in this unique and compelling new play,” said Berkshire Playwrights Lab Co-Artistic Director Jim Frangione. The cast for the staged reading of Release Point will include Miranda Shea, Dina Thomas, and Bates Wilder.
New York City-based playwright DiIorio’s Reparation won the 2011 E. Desmond Lee Playwriting Prize (University of Missouri-St. Louis), was a Yale Drama Series Finalist in 2010, and received its world premiere in 2012 at Luna Stage featuring HBO’s Frankie Faison. His play The Jag won the 2010 Firehouse Theatre’s Great American New Play Award and was a finalist in the 2011 Laurents Hatcher Award Competition. The play was also a finalist in the Premiere Playwright’s Contest hosted by Kean University in 2010. Among his other works are Dead Ringer and Apostasy, both of which are published by Samuel French. His new play Release Point was a finalist for the 2011 Thomas Barbour Memorial Playwright’s Award. The play was also a finalist in the Greenhouse New Play Festival through the HotCity Theatre in St. Louis, Missouri.
Release Point director Jeff Zinn is a founder and former artistic director of Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre (WHAT) on Cape Cod, where he produced and/or directed more than 150 plays including many American and world premiers. His production of Bakersfield Mist by Stephen Sachs, first mounted at WHAT and later re-mounted at New Repertory Theatre, won the 2012 Elliot Norton award for “Outstanding New Script.”
Apeshit by Philip Gerson – July 23
Update 7/18/12: The Cast for Apeshit has been announced. The cast includes Tom Bloom, Adam W. Green, Lou Liberatore, and Molly Ward.
In Philip Gerson’s Apeshit, a renowned primate researcher is taken hostage by a crazed animal rights activist, who is determined to liberate the researcher’s famous chimpanzee. The chimp herself has a shocking reaction to that, and mayhem leads to murder and an evolutionary leap that even Darwin couldn’t have imagined. Who’s the murderer? Who’s the victim? Who’s the Alpha? Is everybody going ape, or just going to sh!t?
“Apeshit is a comic thriller of jungle instincts and cutting-edge science. We are thrilled to have Philip Gerson return to the Berkshire Playwrights Lab after the very successful reading of Eyes Forward in 2010, and its subsequent BPL reading in New York, said Co-Artistic Director Bob Jaffe. ”This is a totally different style fromEyes Forward, showing the versatility of Philip’s craft as a playwright.”
Since its development by Berkshire Playwrights Lab, Philip Gerson’s Eyes Forward has received the Stanley Drama Award and the Dorothy Silvers Playwriting Competition, and it has had staged readings at the Cleveland Playhouse, Amphibian Productions in Fort Worth, and the Road Theatre in Los Angeles. Gerson’sother work for the theatre includes The Last Laugh (finalist for O’Neill National Playwrights Conference);Jumping Blind (NY Gayfest); Night (NY International Fringe Festival); the book for the musical The Last Metro, based on the Francois Truffaut film, (Musical Theatre Works in NY; Colony Theatre in LA); This Isn’t What It Looks Like (workshops at the Gallery Players in Brooklyn and the Telluride Playwrights Festival in Colorado); and the books for the musical parodies Fiddler on the West Hollywood Roof and West Hollywood Gypsy, which were produced in LA to benefit AIDS charities by Charity Parody Productions with permissions of the original authors. He has also written extensively for television.
Bob Jaffe directed the world premiere of William S. Yellow Robe Jr.’s Better-n-Indins and the premieres ofWere You There When the Sugar Beets Got Married? (commissioned by the violinist Midori, with text and illustrations by the late Maurice Sendak) and Grammy Award-winner Bill Harley’s Get Lost: Rules for Travelers. He recently directed Susan Merson’s solo play When They Go and You Do Not, which premiered at the Fountain Theatre in LA. Also an actor, he recently performed …and then you go on. An Anthology of the Works of SAMUEL BECKETT (which he adapted) at The Cell Theatre in New York and toured a one-man show about hunger in America, But for the Grace… Jaffe has performed at the Berkshire Theatre Festival, La MaMa E.T.C., the NY Fringe Festival, Trinity Repertory Company, the Providence Black Repertory Company, and Perishable Theatre, among others. He has appeared in the Showtime series Brotherhood, Law & Order: SVU, and a number of independent films. He is an Artist-in-Residence at the Cell Theatre and an Artist Member of Ensemble Studio Theatre, both in New York.
Existing Privilege by James DeMarse – August 8
James DeMarse’s Existing Privilege is the story of an American diplomat who tries to negotiate peace in an African republic while he simultaneously tries to negotiate the travails of his troubled marriage. “The play excites me because it is the story of a man who is trying to negotiate both the public and the personal. In the process he discovers that his own government is playing a complex game of ‘cat and mouse’ intelligence,” said Berkshire Playwrights Lab Co-Artistic Director Matthew Penn. “It represents a particular directorial challenge as different points of view occur at the same time. Who is watching whom is a great dramatic circumstance and it is at the center of the piece. Espionage, marital challenge—what could be better?”
James DeMarse is an actor, director, and playwright based in New York City. He founded and was the artistic director for seven years of the 42nd Street Workshop, a non-profit theatre company in New York that has a membership of about two hundred actors, writers, and directors. He ran the playwriting module and acted as dramaturg for all readings and productions. He has also had Equity showcase productions of his plays in New York, including Knock ‘Em Dead at the Image, Breaking Through the Clutter at the 42nd Workshop, three one-act plays under the title of Urban Disorders at the Company of Characters, Easy Street at the Quaigh, and A Dress Unknown at the West Bank. He has also had rehearsed staged readings of Black Duck Bay, Dying For You, Orange Bees at 42nd Workshop, George Washington’s Farewell to his Mother at the Actor’s Studio PD UNIT, and Violent Child at Ensemble Studio Theatre. He has performed on and off Broadway, at regional theatres, and for film and television. He is a member of Actors Studio, Ensemble Studio Theatre, and Dramatists Guild of America.
Matthew Penn has had roots in the Berkshires for over 40 years. He began his career as an actor, appearing in a half-dozen films and more than 30 plays. He started directing for the stage at Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York City. At EST, Penn’s work included The Pilots, The Pursuit of Happiness, Sundance, Big Frogs, Gangster Apparel, Go to Ground, and many others. At the George Street Playhouse, Penn directed The Root by Gary Richards, Foxfire (starring Audra Lindley and James Whitmore) and The Engagement by Richard Vetere. He has also directed and/or produced over 150 prime time TV dramas. He was nominated for an Emmy for his direction of the 200th episode of Law and Order (starring Julia Roberts). He was the show’s Executive Producer for four seasons, during which time he produced over 90 episodes. His other TV work includes Damages, The Closer, Private Practice, Royal Pains, House, In Plain Sight, Detroit 1-8-7,Blue Bloods, Big Apple, NYPD Blue, Brooklyn South, Cashmere Mafia, Third Watch, Profiler, The Sopranos, and The Education of Max Bickford—where he met Joe Cacaci, who convinced him that the kids were old enough and it was time to come back to the theatre.
About Berkshire Playwrights Lab
Founded in 2007 by theatre professionals Joe Cacaci, Jim Frangione, Bob Jaffe, and Matthew Penn, the Berkshire Playwrights Lab is the area’s only theatre dedicated exclusively to encouraging, developing, and presenting new plays. Through readings—and in the future through workshops and fully-staged productions—the Lab provides emerging and established writers with a professional and creative environment, while offering audiences the engaging and provocative opportunity to share in the dramatic evolution of premiere works.
The Lab has staged readings of more than 50 new plays, many of which have gone on to full productions, including Kelly Masterson’s Against the Rising Sea at Queens Theatre in the Park, Chris Newbound’s The Birthday Boy at Berkshire Theatre Festival, Kate Wenner’s Make Sure It’s Me at Stage Left Theatre, and later this summer, Kelly Masterson’s Edith at Berkshire Theatre Group. Also, from last season, Jonathan Caren’sThe Recommendation went on to the Old Globe and Andrew Dolan’s The Many Mistresses of Martin Luther King recently opened to rave reviews at Ensemble Studio Theatre Los Angeles. As well, Matt Hoverman’s The Glint has been optioned for Broadway, Anna Ziegler’s An Incident (with the new title Another Way Home) will be produced at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco in November and Matthew Penn will direct a production ofScrambled Eggs by Robin Amos Kahn and Gary Richards next April at the Beckett Theatre in New York.