By Bill Hirschman
Over 24 years, from its time in a compact storefront theater, Palm Beach Dramaworks has always produced a mix of classic titles, more modern works and a handful of debuts.
But next month’s Perlberg Festival of New Plays further solidifies its reputation in recent years as a South Florida pillar for world premieres and its programs developing scripts in progress.
The event, formerly the New Year/New Plays Festival, features readings of five scripts that are still in development. Hosted by The Dramaworkshop, the company’s lab for developing new plays, the sixth annual festival runs from January 3-7.
Highlights include Producing Artistic Director William Hayes interviewing Academy Award-winning actress Estelle Parsons on January 3 and acclaimed playwright Mark St. Germain on January 4.
Parsons appeared at PBD in My Old Lady (2014) and has originated numerous roles in new plays over her decades-long career. PBD helped develop St. Germain’s script for Freud’s Last Session and produced its Southeastern premiere (2011).
The plays chosen for the festival are Proximity by Harrison David Rivers (3pm Friday, January 5), Stockade by Andrew Rosendorf (7:30 pm Friday, January 5), Color Blind by Oren Safdie (3pm Saturday, January 6), Everything Beautiful Happens at Night by Ted Malawer (7:30 pm Saturday, January 6), and Little Row Boat by Kirsten Greenidge (3pm Sunday, January 7). The scripts continue to develop under the auspices of The Dramaworkshop leading up to the festival, and are read onstage in front of an audience.
The festival recently received an unprecedented gift of $500,000 from its executive producers, Diane and Mark Perlberg. “It’s a game-changer,” said Hayes, “assuring the festival’s future for years to come and enabling continued growth.” The name of the event was changed to acknowledge the Perlbergs’ generosity.
“The development and production of new works is the lifeblood of theatre,” said Mark Perlberg. “There’s been a lot written lately about the many theaters throughout the country that are struggling. These unsettling times make it more difficult for playwrights to get their work out into the world. But PBD is zealous about nurturing and producing new plays, and the festival has proved to be an invaluable experience for artists and audiences alike. Diane and I recognize its potential to have a great impact on theatre throughout the country, and are delighted to assist in whatever way we can.”
by Harrison David Rivers
Friday, January 5 at 3pm
Newly divorced and sheltering at home with her two children at the height of the pandemic, Ezra hasn’t been touched by another adult in eight months. At a virtual PTA meeting, she is introduced to the charismatic Irie, another single parent, and their immediate attraction causes Ezra to reconsider the limits of her Covid bubble.
by Andrew Rosendorf
Friday, January 5 at 7:30pm
Five years after the end of WWII, a group of gay soldiers gathers for a reunion on Fire Island. They are met by an outsider with a surprise that will cause them to question whether history is best left in the past. At a time when “security risk” is government code for “homosexual,” it will take courage for them to step out of the shadows and confront their present and future.
by Oren Safdie
Saturday, January 6 at 3pm
In 2009, a jury was tasked with selecting an architect to design the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. This play is a fictionalized account of how that panel of diverse people and ideas may have come together – or been pulled apart – in making its decision, and in so doing, challenges the audience to consider the state of our current civil discord.
EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL HAPPENS AT NIGHT
by Ted Malawer
Saturday, January 6 at 7:30pm
Ezra is a successful children’s book writer. Nancy is his longtime editor. They are always on the same page, until someone new threatens to disrupt their friendship and influence Ezra’s next book. Set in 1980s Manhattan, this play explores the legacy of an artist, the meaning of intimacy, and the stories we tell ourselves to survive.
LITTLE ROW BOAT
by Kirsten Greenidge
Sunday, January 7 at 3pm
When 14-year-old Sally Hemings travels to Paris as nursemaid to her half-sister’s young daughter, the world appears to have opened much wider than Thomas Jefferson’s post-revolutionary Virginia plantation on which she was born. It is not until Sally’s brother James, also in France as he trains to be a chef de cuisine, points out the peculiarities of their circumstances that Sally begins to question the kindnesses their “master” has extended to them.
HARRISON DAVID RIVERS is an award-winning playwright, librettist, and television writer based in St. Paul, Minnesota. His plays include we are continuous (Williamstown Theatre Festival, Geva Theatre Center, New Conservatory Theatre Center), the bandaged place (Roundabout Theatre, NYSF), and This Bitter Earth (NCTC, Penumbra, About Face, Theater Alliance, Richmond Triangle Players, The Road, InterAct, TheatreWorks Hartford, Seattle Public, Blank Page), among others, and the musicals Five Points, We Shall Someday and I Put a Spell on You. harrisondavidrivers.com
ANDREW ROSENDORF Plays have been produced or developed at La Jolla Playhouse, MCC Theater, KC Rep, Signature Theatre, Florida Stage, the National New Play Network (NNPN), Unicorn Theatre, American Theater Company, Nashville Rep, City Theatre, Geva Theatre, Actor’s Express, Curious Theatre Company, and Local Theater Company. He is the recipient of an Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award and a NNPN Rolling World Premiere for Refuge, which he co-created with Satya Jnani Chávez. He is an alum of the Goodman Theatre’s Playwrights Unit and NNPN’s playwright-in-residence program
OREN SAFDIE attended the Graduate School of Architecture at Columbia University before turning his attention to writing. He had a hit Off-Broadway (2003) and in London (2006) with Private Jokes, Public Places, which sent shock waves through the architecture community and was named one of the top ten new plays of the decade by The Wall Street Journal. His next play, The Last Word, was produced Off-Broadway and starred two-time Emmy winner Daniel J. Travanti. Other New York productions include Gratitude, Unseamly, West Bank, UK, Jews & Jesus, False Solution, The Bilbao Effect, and La Compagnie. Five of these shows were New York Times Critics’ Picks.
TED MALAWER Work includes the musical Only Gold, which had its world premiere at MCC Theater (Outer Critics Circle and Off-Broadway Alliance nominations, Outstanding Musical), and plays commissioned and developed by T Magazine, Atlantic Theater Company, NYTW, Magic Theatre, Pioneer Theater Company, and others. Ted co-wrote the adaptation of the novel Red, White & Royal Blue, which debuted as the No. 1 film worldwide on Amazon Prime.
KIRSTEN GREENIDGE Plays include Feeding Beatrice: A Gothic Tale, Common Ground Revisited, and Our Daughters, Like Pillars. Kirsten’s work often examines the relationship between race, class, gender, and history. Awards and recognitions include a Mellon Foundation/HowlRound Fellowship, a PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award (honoring an American playwright in mid-career), a Sundance Institute/Time Warner Storytelling Fellowship, several Edgerton Foundation New American Play Awards, a Lucille Lortel nomination, a commission from the Big Ten Theatre’s Consortium New Play Initiative, a Cleveland Play House Roe Green Award and residency, an Improper Bostonian Award as Best Playwright, and an Obie Award for Milk Like Sugar.. She is chair of Theatre Arts and co-chair of Performance at the School of Theatre at Boston University.
Tickets can be purchased online at email@example.com, or by calling the box office at (561) 514-4042 x2. Tickets are $20 per play, or $75 for all five plays by using the code FESTIVAL. The interviews with Parsons (January 3 at 7pm) and St. Germain (January 4 at 4pm) are $10 each for those with tickets to any play reading, $20 each for interviews only.