Hollywood, Nebraska, the rueful new comedy by Kenneth Jones about two fortysomething actresses who return to their small town for separate family emergencies, will be workshopped by Wyoming Theater Festival in Sheridan, WY, where the playwright will be in residence starting Aug. 18. Rehearsals and rewrites with a professional cast and creative team will culminate in six fully staged public performances, on a barebones set, Sept. 8-16.
Here’s how Hollywood, Nebraska is billed: “In the panhandle of Nebraska, two actresses of a certain age are making a homecoming in their dying small town. Jane’s in from L.A. to check up on her ailing mother. Andrea’s back from New York to bury her father. Will a disappearing dot on the map of the Great Plains provide a second act for each of them? A new rueful comedy about the urge to be creative, the itch to move away and the ache of reconnecting with the family and feelings that you thought you left behind.”
Scott Alan Evans, executive artistic director of Off-Broadway’s TACT/The Actors Company Theatre, will direct. TACT gave Hollywood, Nebraska its first public presentation in its 2016 NewTACTics play reading series, during and after which the play underwent revisions and refinements. Susan Fenichell directed that earlier presentation.
His drama Two Henrys was seen in recent readings by Pioneer Theatre Company and Hudson Stage Company, and in a developmental staging by Pacific Resident Theatre.
Nora Chester, a TACT favorite who played Nebraska matriarch Alma for the NewTACTics reading of Hollywood, Nebraska, will anchor the company in Sheridan, WY. She’ll share the stage with Elizabeth Howell as Alma’s TV actress-daughter, Jane; Michelle Jasso as stage actress Andrea (who performed school plays with Jane back in the day); Dean Biasucci as Robert, Alma’s neighbor; Corinne Landy as Robert’s teen daughter, Katie, a wannabe actress; and Joseff Stevenson as local laborer Lance. Erica Hartmann is stage manager.
Wyoming Theater Festival artistic director DannyLee Hodnett said that one of the things that drew him to Hollywood, Nebraska was how its high plains setting was invaded and inhabited by creative people — outsider actors who have their roots there but struggle with the tension and questions of who they were and who they became.
Hodnett added, “Sheridan is a small town on the edge of the plains with a bigger population and more activity than the play’s fictional Box Elder, Nebraska, but I think ourarea theatergoers will instantly understand the quiet dignity, yearnings, history and productivity of the characters in this bittersweet and sad comedy.”
In a program note, playwright Kenneth Jones wrote, “There’s a small town in far western Nebraska where I have spent time, as an outsider, with people I love. Its heyday is over. Its population has dwindled to about 2,400. There is drought. Some storefronts are boarded up. Missile silos that once held weapons aimed at Russia during the Cold War have been decommissioned. An oil boom ended. The interstate diverted traffic away from Main Street long ago. A railroad cuts through town, but doesn’t offer passenger service anymore. There are farms both fallow and fertile. I walked around town. I browsed at a thrift shop. I took pictures of broken windows at the Wheat Growers Hotel. I attended a church service. I shared dinners and played cards in a parlor with widows who loved to laugh and talk about their history. I was curious and inspired. I wondered about residents past and present — who left? who stayed? and why? — and it all made me think more deeply about what it means to lead a ‘creative life.’ That was the jumping off point for Hollywood, Nebraska.”
Performances of Hollywood, Nebraska will play the 83-seat black box Mars stage in the WYO Theatre in downtown Sheridan on Sept. 8-9; Sept. 12-13; Sept. 14-15.
Hollywood, Nebraska joins two other titles in Wyoming Theater Festival’s centerpiece initiative that mounts fully staged developmental productions of new work: Mark Saltzman’s Damon Runyon-inspired Another Roll of the Dice, with songs by Frank Loesser, and Gabrielle Sinclair’s The Resolute. Last summer, Saltzman worked on a different play at WyoTF.
Workshops, lectures, special events and staged readings of six new plays — including Rachel Bublitz’s Let’s Fix Andy!, Stephanie Fagan’s The Witch Cage, Jack and Benny Lipson’s musical Miranda, Please!, Jenny Rachel Weiner’s two-character relationship play jason&julia, Victor Lesniewski’s Tentative City and Jeff Augustin’s The New Englanders — are part of the 2017 festival in north-central Wyoming. Scripts by Weiner, Lesniewski and Augustin are in a residency partnering with Roundabout Theatre Company’s Space Jam program.
Sheridan, WY, is about 25 miles from the southern Montana border and about 250 miles from Rapid City, SD.
The 2017 Wyoming Theater Festival acting company — a mix of Equity and non-Equity performers — includes Rachel Hirshee, Nick Ley, Tito Livas, Megan Moran, Gio Munguia and Alan Wager (Another Roll of the Dice); Dean Biasucci, Nora Chester, Elizabeth Howell, Michelle Jasso, Corinne Landy and Joseff Stevenson (Hollywood, Nebraska); Laurel Anderson, Malin Barr, Katya Collazo, Erin Kranz, Claire Allegra Taylor and Kelly Teaford (The Resolute). The season stage managers are Betsy Ellsworth, Erica Hartmann and Robyn Monkarsh. The Wyoming Theater Festival 2017 production team includes costume designer Dee Sullivan; production manager Jerry Dougherty; and tech director/designer Christina Barrigan, along with support from Miles Whittaker, Jeremy Odom, Colleen Rooney, Christopher Joe, John Paul Olsen, Ashley Adelman, Emily Hucal and many others.
For more about the 2017 Wyoming Theater Festival, visit wyotf.com or visit its Facebook page.