Hollywood, Nebraska, the rueful 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 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 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. 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 our area 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 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 new plays — including Rachel Bublitz’s Let’s Fix Andy! , plus emerging scripts by three playwrights in a residency partnering with Roundabout Theatre Company’s Space Jam program — are part of the 2017 festival in north-central Wyoming.
Sheridan, WY, is about 25 miles from the southern Montana border and about 250 miles from Rapid City, SD.
For more about the 2017 Wyoming Theater Festival, visit wyomingtheaterfestival.com or visit its Facebook page.