“In the Spring,” wrote Tennyson, “a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” Were he still with us today, he might have added, “and, if he’s a theatre geek, to thoughts of the Humana Festival of New American Plays.”
All right, so it doesn’t scan. But the fact is, anyone who is interested in the state of theatre in the USA today can’t afford to pass up the Humana Festival. Now in its 36th year, the festival is a seven-week celebration of new plays produced by the Actors Theatre of Louisville. The company presents seven new works (winnowed down from an average of 2000 submissions each year) in the course of the festival, which takes place in their sumptuous downtown digs.
How sumptuous? Located in historic structures on Main Street, the Actors Theatre consists of the 637-seat Pamela Brown Auditorium, with a thrust stage; the 159-seat Victor Jory Theatre, a three-quarter arena performance space; and the 318-seat Bingham Theatre, a flexible arena space. Add in the palatial lobby, a restaurant, and a nine-story parking garage, and you have the kind of facility most theatre companies dream about. Better yet, it’s only part of a general revitalization of downtown Louisville that includes fine hotels, restaurants, and bars, all within an easy walk of the theatre.
The Humana Festival is a valuable resource for other theatre companies as well as folks who simply love theatre. I'm on the board of directors and play reading committee at the West End Players Guild here in St. Louis (our motto: "big theatre in a small space"), and I can attest to the festival as a source of new plays for our seasons.
I’ll be attending the festival this year in my professional capacity as the senior performing arts critic at 88.1 KDHX. I’ll be posing live video blogs from the festival, including capsule reviews of each show with my long-time friend and noted playwright Joan Lipkin (who’s covering the festival for The Vital Voice). Just look for “Lavazzi and Lipkin Live from Louisville” on YouTube or check out my posts at the KDHX blog. I’ll also be posting daily updates to the theatre reviews area at KDHX.
Want to know more? Check out the complete list of 2012 festival plays at the Humana Festival web site. And join in the discussion on Twitter with the #HF36 and #humanafest hash tags. You can also follow me on Twitter @clavazzi.