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In the works productions showcase 'Momentum'

| Thursday, June 14, 2007

For theatergoers who like to start at the beginning, City Theatre's Momentum07 offers a cornucopia of choices, says artistic director Tracy Brigden.

An annual event since 2003, Momentum offers theatergoers a long weekend to experience not-yet-produced plays and musicals that are in a variety of developmental stages. Those attending also get an opportunity to offer their reactions through post-reading talk-back sessions and to engage in conversations with playwrights, performers and directors.

Momentum07 will feature readings and selections from more plays than previous festivals.

"The festival gets bigger and better every year," Brigden says. "We had a great cornucopia of choices."

Brigden had already settled on five plays for this year's festival when a late entry arrived as an inquiry from playwright Beth Henley's agent. Henley is best known for her 1981 Pulitzer Prize-winning play "Crimes of the Heart."

Would Brigden be interested in Henley's newest play, "Exposed," the agent asked Brigden.

"How could I say no?," Brigden asks rhetorically. "Now we're doing six instead of five."

"Exposed," set during a Christmas in Los Angeles, takes a comic and poignant look at the complexities of contemporary relationships. "It's urban, edgy," Brigden says.

Also opening themselves up for audience reaction:

  • A musical selection from "An Infinite Ache: The Musical," an adaptation of David Schulner's play. City Theatre commissioned Brendan Milburn and Valerie Vigoda, who created the band GrooveLily to turn the story of a couples' lifelong relationship into a musical.

  • A romantic comedy, "The 13th of Paris" by Mat Smart that is scheduled for full production during City Theatre's 2007-08 season. It's set in Paris, where a ghost teaches a young man about love.

  • A play for families, "The Gift of the Pirate Queen" by Shadyside playwright Tammy Ryan. An adaptation of Patricia Reilly Giff's novel, it's also a City Theatre commission scheduled for production next season. It's about an overburdened sixth-grader and her Irish ancestor who was a pirate queen.

  • A contemporary, topical and political play, "Hardball" by Victoria Stewart about what happens when news becomes entertainment and politics becomes a performance.

    "It's about a(n) (Anne) Colter-esque character who rises to power through outrageousness," Brigden says.

  • A drama, "The Tallest Girl in the Class" by Hilly Hicks Jr., about three-generations of African-American women who attend the same high school. It explores the influences of the past on the present.

For Brigden and City Theatre, the focus of Momentum07 is on its value as a developmental tool for playwrights to hear their works performed and to obtain audience reaction. It's definitely not a money maker, Brigden says.

But she would be ecstatic if an overflow crowd of theatergoers and practitioners would turn out to react to the plays, hear Henley's talk and simply interact with the actors, directors and playwrights who will be gathered at City Theatre.

"It's next to free," says Brigden calling attention to the admission charge: $5 per event or $10 for a festival pass that covers all the Momentum events. "There are great actors involved and (opportunities for) personal interaction with great figures in U.S. theater. I can't think of a greater bargain."

Additional Information:

Momentum07: New Plays at Different Stages

Produced by: City Theatre Company

When: Thursday-Sunday

Admission: $5 per event or $10 for an all-inclusive festival pass

Where: City Theatre, 1300 Bingham St., South Side.

Details: 412-431-2489 or www.citytheatre.org

Schedule of events

Today

6 p.m.: A selection from 'An Infinite Ache: The Musical' by Brendan Milburn and Valerie Vigoda

7 p.m.: Kickoff reception

8 p.m.: Reading of 'The 13th of Paris' by Mat Smart

Friday

6 p.m.: A conversation with Beth Henley

8 p.m.: Reading of 'Exposed' by Beth Henley

Saturday

2 p.m.: A selection from 'An Infinite Ache: The Musical'

5:30 p.m.: Reading of 'The Gift of the Pirate Queen' by Tammy Ryan

8 p.m.: Reading of 'Hardball' by Victoria Stewart

Sunday

2 p.m.: Reading of 'The 13th of Paris'

7 p.m.: Reading of 'The Tallest Girl in the Class' by Hilly Hicks Jr.

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