TheatreSquared announced today that the 2020 Arkansas New Play Festival will begin this week, with its first production slated for a streamed reading performance on June 26 at 7pm following an intensive workshop that began June 15. The workshop of Love be Like... by Clinnesha D. Sibley is directed by Denise Chapman with dramaturgical support from Naysan Mojgani. In Love be Like…, a young Black couple moves into their first home in Charleston, SC, in the immediate aftermath of the 2015 Emanuel AME Church massacre. This initial reading will be offered nationwide, free of charge to anyone who wishes to watch, with a suggested donation to support the work. The reading will be followed by a conversation with the creative team. Encore streaming is available through June 30. Full details are available at www.playarkansas.com.
"It's amazing how we were able to find a story and build community virtually,” said Sibley. “This was meaningful, innovative, and brave collaborative work that I needed in my life as a writer/creative."
“It’s actually been incredible to have this kind of artistic collaboration take place entirely digitally,” said T2 Artistic Director Robert Ford. “While it will never fully replace an in-person workshop or performance, the energy was still remarkable and led to meaningful development on this brilliant and deeply relevant play."
"For our twelfth annual festival in 2020, we’re moving to a ‘rolling’ new play development model, with additional intensive workshops and readings scheduled throughout the summer and fall," said T2 Executive Director Martin Miller. "It's wonderful to have our artists back in the rehearsal room again.”
Later titles slated for development at the 2020 Arkansas New Play Festival include Weightless, a genre-bending musical event by The Kilbanes (the theatrical songwriting duo Kate Kilbane and Dan Moses), directed by Working Theater co-artistic director Tamilla Woodard, and developed in collaboration with the acclaimed off-Broadway company WP Theater. Commissioned by Z Space and Encore Theater Company, Weightless had its world premiere in 2018 at Z Space in a co-production with piece by piece productions. The companies remounted Weightless in May 2019, presented by A.C.T. at the Strand Theater, where it received the highest recommendation from the San Francisco Chronicle, whose critic, Lily Janiak, called it “the future of theater.”
Additional confirmed titles in the festival include The Interrogator by Russell Leigh Sharman, a WWII thriller based on transcripts of the actual interrogations carried out at Fort Hunt, a top-secret Prisoner of War camp code-named PO BOX 1142; and Heroes and Monsters, by the LatinX Theatre Project, a continuation of LXTP's unique style of work featuring original dialogue, movement, music, poetry, and rap. More works will be announced in the coming weeks, with the detailed festival schedule to be posted in mid-July. Later workshops and readings will be held either in person or delivered digitally, as circumstances permit.
Love be Like… is available to stream free with a suggested donation; subsequent festival performances will be ticketed. Arkansas New Play Festival passholders receive free access to the full festival lineup and to exclusive online experiences throughout. Play Fest Passes are $45 and available at www.playarkansas.org.
Since 2009, the Arkansas New Play Festival has been a leading laboratory in mid-America for new plays, allowing audiences a chance to experience the very first performances of trail-blazing works before their world premieres. Each play is intensively developed by teams including the playwright, director, dramaturg, and a professional cast. More than 60 new plays have been developed at TheatreSquared since the festival’s inception.
About the Play
In Love be Like…, it’s 2015, the world is falling, hate crimes are increasing, and everyone’s questioning religion; but when nine churchgoers are targeted and murdered in a mass shooting during a prayer service in Charleston, South Carolina, a traumatized African-American couple is forced to reckon with faith, fear, and forgiveness in the digital age.
About the Playwright
Clinnesha Dillon Sibley is a literary artist, educator, and humanities scholar. Her play Uprooted was initially developed at the Arkansas New Play Festival and later appeared at The Cell Theatre in New York and the Black Academy of Arts and Letters in Dallas. Her play Tell Martha Not to Moan was also featured in the Arkansas New Play Festival, with subsequent productions at Penumbra Theatre, Athena Project Arts Festival, and The Union for Contemporary Arts. Other credits include Naked: What Women and Their Bodies Represent to America (The Joust Theatre) and Play Dead (Art House Production’s In Full Color Celebration of Women). She is a recipient of the Holland New Voices Award, Mississippi Theatre Association Playwriting Award, an Arkansas Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship, a National Arts Strategies Creative Communities Fellowship, and an Arts Institute of Mississippi (AIM) Award in Creative Writing. Her writing has also appeared in national literary journals, anthologies, and publications including HowlRound, Black Acting Methods, and Continuum: The Journal of African Diaspora Drama. She holds an MFA in Playwriting from the University of Arkansas and a BA from Tougaloo College. Clinnesha is currently the literary arts instructor at Mississippi School of the Arts.
TheatreSquared’s signature offering of bold new plays in an intimate setting has driven its growth to become the state’s largest theatre, offering more than 300 performances annually in two intimate spaces. The playwright-led company is one of mid-America’s leading laboratories for new work, having launched more than 60 new plays. Notable collaborators have included Bryna Turner, Anne García-Romero, Pulitzer Prize finalist Lisa D’Amour, Qui Nguyen, Mona Mansour, Tony Award nominee Lee Blessing, Amy Evans, and many others. TheatreSquared’s remarkable expansion—with a twentyfold increase in audience in just the past decade—parallels the emergence of its home region in the northwest corner of Arkansas as a booming population center and destination for American art. Offering far-reaching access and education programs and an open-all-day gathering space, the Commons Bar/Café, TheatreSquared remains rooted in its founding vision, that “theatre—done well and with passion—can transform lives and communities.”
The 2020 Arkansas New Play Festival is supported by Barbara Shadden, in memory of Harry Shadden.
This project is generously funded by Mid-America Arts Alliance, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the state arts agencies of Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas.
Major funding for the TheatreSquared Season 14 is provided by The Walton Family Foundation, Inc.; the Walmart Foundation; and by the Arkansas Arts Council, an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Marketing support for TheatreSquared Season 14 is provided by Experience Fayetteville, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Fayetteville Flyer, CitiScapes, KUAF, MailCo USA and Univision.