Nothing Without a Company New Play Festival Preview, Part 1 – Diverse Voices Onstage

A photo collage featuring all ten playwrights whose works are featured in Nothing Without a Company's New Works Festival.
The ten playwrights of Nothing Without a Company's second annual New Works Festival.

Nothing Without a Company, a Chicago theatre company dedicated to site-specific new works, will open its thirteenth season with its second annual New Play Festival, featuring new works from ten Chicago playwrights. I interviewed these ten playwrights about their work and the festival, and they had some fascinating things to say. This is part one of a two-part article. Read part two here!

Photo of playwright Priyankar Patra
Priyankar Patra

Priyankar Patra
Describe your play to someone who’s never heard of it.

My play One Ticket To America is a sci-fi drama that explores the journey of a young man of being obsessed with America to finally realizing that the country, like any other, has flaws. Linearly, it starts with when our protagonist along with his parents struggles to set up a Skype call for his grad school interview and ends with him having to return from America because of the circumstances around him. While a major part of the script has sci-fi elements which help the audience look at the protagonist’s experience in an interesting way, I wanted to pay close attention to the changing relationships between the protagonist and his parents. That to me was the most important thing about the play.

What drew you to Nothing Without a Company’s new play festival in particular?

I love Nothing Without a Company‘s ambition to get more local Chicago stories out there for the audience. Everyone loves the big shows and the broadways, but what NWaC is doing is important in shaping a culture and local narrative while uniting the community. So I’ve always wanted to collaborate with them.  When I heard that they were doing this festival, I knew I had this play which was more-or-less site-specific, so I just went forward with it and submitted my play.

Which playwright(s) would you be most flattered to be compared to?

That’s a tough question. I’m primarily a screenwriter who writes plays on the side. So, as long as I’m compared to any playwright who has/had made money writing plays, I’m happy, satisfied and will have a good night sleep!

Why should someone come to the festival, in three words or less?

Diverse Voices.

Photo of playwright Kevin Sparrow
Kevin Sparrow

Kevin Sparrow

Describe your play to someone who’s never heard of it.

“D.P.N.B.” is where queer-coding meets coding. A young non-binary person creates an A.I. (artificial intelligence) with the intention of automatically changing gender-binary language to non-binary, but the A.I. has different plans as it starts coming to life. It’s kind of a Pinocchio story, but if Pinocchio wanted to become a “real boy” in 21st century America with all the toxic masculinity and “bad data” that entails.

What drew you to Nothing Without a Company’s new play festival in particular?

I’m the Literary Manager for Nothing Without a Company, and the producer of the festival, so of course I have a bias in developing work here. But choosing this specific play to incorporate was based on what we were looking for in the calls we put out to other writers. The plays should be able to use Berger Park in a site-specific way, whether that is referencing the park or the neighborhood itself or using the architecture of the Downey House (the park’s South Mansion) to help set a scene in that space. D.P.N.B. is a sequel to the play I wrote and developed for last year’s festival, “Shotgun Preemie”, so it made sense to continue that thread–eventually, I’m hoping to link these two shorts together with one more tale to create a full-length play.

Which playwright(s) would you be most flattered to be compared to?

Oh gosh–anyone, really (as long as their name isn’t Mamet)!
In terms of writers who would make the most sense to me if someone made a comparison, I would say Tom Stoppard, or Chicago’s own Barrie Cole.

Why should someone come to the festival, in three words or less?

Community engaged work

Photo of playwright Shae Boyd
Shae Boyd

Shae Boyd

Describe your play to someone who’s never heard of it.

Two former partners reconnect over spooky circumstances: Avery is an emotional wreck still in recovery from the split, while hard-headed Shane wants to move on at their own pace, while still being respectful to Avery’s lingering attachment. Tonight, Avery has lured Shane into their new apartment, fearful of a dark spirit they claim is present. But is this scary story just a manipulative coercion? Or is there truly paranormal energy afoot?

What drew you to Nothing Without a Company’s new play festival in particular?

I was Nothing Without a Company’s former Marketing Director and I decided to step down from that position when I began a new job at a pet insurance company. I had been working on some short plays already and when the idea of another New Play Festival came up, I offered my services.

Which playwright(s) would you be most flattered to be compared to?

I’ve actually not read many other plays or playwrights although I’ve been an avid reader of books and novels since I was a kid. This is also the first play I’ve written to be produced! But I would really just like the audience to feel like it’s real — like this is actually happening — have the dialogue feel very natural, the audience is there as a fly on the wall while these people are telling stories and bickering

Why should someone come to the festival, in three words or less?

INNOVATIVE SPOOKY WORKS!!!

Photo of playwright Duff Norris
Duff Norris

Duff Norris

Describe your play to someone who’s never heard of it.

Our trans-masculine Youth is on a journey toward self-understanding and acceptance while simultaneously saving the world. Along the way, a Reagan-esque Politician grows up a bit and the Crew members aid the Youth in solving complicated worldwide issues, all with the love and support of the Fairy Dyke Mothers. Come fly around space and see what is possible on this grand adventure!

What drew you to Nothing Without a Company’s new play festival in particular?

I heard about the opportunity through a friend who is a part of the company. I really enjoyed NWaC’s most recent show Not One Batu and was excited to work with such a creative flexible group. I was also thrilled when they were enthusiastic about staging a play like mine that has a fairly nontraditional structure and is closer to narrative performance art.

Which playwright(s) would you be most flattered to be compared to?

I guess maybe Tony Kushner with some Samuel Beckett thrown in, all though I have more hope than Beckett for sure.

Why should someone come to the festival, in three words or less?

Outer-space, hope, & laughs

Photo of playwright Ellan Read
Ellan Read

Ellan Read

Describe your play to someone who’s never heard of it.

In the far off future, an onslaught against alien immigrants to the human planet of Neptune rages on; yet, Kayden and Shoelaceless, star-crossed lovers that they are, continue to see each other in secret. But when a stranger interrupts their bliss, lies are revealed and blood is spilled culminating in an ending neither could’ve predicted.

What drew you to Nothing Without a Company’s new play festival in particular?

Well, I write a lot of sci-fi trying to understand the complexities of the 21st century. I’ve worked with Kevin Sparrow, producer of the festival, before on multiple projects and so when I found out that NWaC was thinking about doing a sci-fi play festival, I immediately sent them a draft of a play I had written for my own short play fest a year earlier.

Which playwright(s) would you be most flattered to be compared to?

Well, I have a Sarah Kane tattoo so definitely her haha. I’m also a massive fan of Edward Albee, José Rivera, and, of course, Chicago’s own Sarah Ruhl. Omg Suzan-Lori Parks is definite hero of mine as well. Fucking A was one of the first plays I ever read that made me want to become a playwright.

Why should someone come to the festival, in three words or less?

Unlike anything else!

 

Nothing Without a Company’s New Play Festival runs from October 11-27, 2018. For tickets and the full festival schedule, please visit the Nothing Without a Company website.

Photos courtesy of Nothing Without a Company.

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