ANPF brings winning playwrights to Ashland

    Left to right: Actors Austin Comfort, Stephanie Neuerburg and Ashland New Plays Festival artistic director Kyle Haden. Photo courtesy of Chela Sanchez

    Ashland New Plays Festival brings four winning playwrights to spend a week in Ashland to rehearse plays with casts and see them performed as staged readings by actors from Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the community.

    Three of the four playwrights — Skye Robinson Hillis, Beth Kander and Meridith Friedman — are prolific writers with impressive bodies of work. "The Return of Tartuffe" is the first play written by Brian Mulholland. The winning plays were selected through a months-long process of reading 572 blinded submissions.

    These playwrights will have the opportunity to see their work in rehearsal, hear live readings performed by some of the best actors in the Rogue Valley and observe audience reactions, often for the first time. Audiences can provide insightful feedback during the interactive talks after each performance. Previous winning playwrights say they find this process priceless in their creative efforts to bring their work to full production.

    The staged readings are Wednesday through Sunday, Oct. 21-25, with readings of each play at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m., at the Unitarian Fellowship, 87 Fourth St., Ashland. Tickets are $15 and available Oct. 1-19 online at or Paddington Station. All performances will be followed by talks moderated by ANPF's 2008 winning playwright and returning host E.M. Lewis.

    "The Return of Tartuffe" by Mulholland — a native New Englander now living in Cincinnati and a former actor at OSF — is a clever and inventive sequel to Moliere’s classic comedy — written, like the original, in rhyming couplets — in which Tartuffe finds himself exiled to the American colonies.

    The 17th-century swindler — whose comic villainy has been an audience favorite for 350 years — targets the famous Boston minister Cotton Mather as the mark in his next big con game. Mather is a fierce proponent of the controversial theory of inoculation, but it’s a battle he’s been losing until Tartuffe, armed with a tall tale, swings opinion in Mather’s favor. When Tartuffe then borrows a page from “inoculation theory” to seduce a beautiful maid indentured in the Mather household, a family debate rages as to his intentions. Schemes are hatched, traps are planned, disguises are donned, and tables are turned — more than once.

    Dawn Monique Williams, an artistic associate at OSF, directs the large cast of "The Return," which includes Barret O’Brien, Bruce A. Young, Kimberly Scott, Savanna Padilla, Allison Buck, Cesar Peres Rosas, Rafael Untalan, and Robin Waisanen.

    "And Vaster" by Hillis — a playwright, director and dramaturg in Chicago — examines the upheaval and self-examination that occur in response to sudden and unexpected life-altering information. For 15 years, married actors Michael and Corinne have stood by their decision to focus on their respective careers and each other and not have children. When Michael is confronted with an unknown 17-year-old daughter begotten from a one-night stand, he and Corinne must revisit the decision they made long ago and figure out how to assimilate a nearly grown child into their kid-free family dynamic — without losing each other in the process.

    Directed by OSF dramaturg Lydia Garcia, the cast features Terri McMahon, David Kelly, Sara Bruner, Al Espinosa, Stephanie Neuerburg and Kaitlin J. Henderson.

    "The Bottle Tree" by Kander — a playwright who hails from the South and now resides in Chicago — explores gun violence in America through the story of a lingering traumatic effect a shooting has left on the residents of a small Mississippi community. No denizen of the town is more traumatized that the shy, sarcastic Alley, the little sister of the infamous shooter. Gradually she realizes that everyone else is just as haunted by the crime. When everyone around you also is a little bit broken, how can anyone begin to piece one’s self back together? Young love, old guilt, laughter, and lingering scars all keep the girl and the town on the verge of shattering.

    Emily Serdahl, Josiah Polhemus, Amy Prosser, Galen A. Molk, Liisa Ivary, Britney Simpson, Truett Felt, Dominique Francis and Samuel L. Wick will perform under the direction of Jackie Apodaca, head of performance at Southern Oregon University.

    "The Luckiest People" by Friedman, an award-winning New York playwright, tells the story of Oscar, an elderly father, and his son, Richard, and their conflict when confronted by the realities and suspicions following the death of Oscar's wife. While Richard grapples with the responsibility he feels for his parents, his father proposes moving in with him. As Richard is settled happily in his Santa Barbara condo with his husband, and an adopted son will soon be occupying the spare bedroom, he is less than enthusiastic. Years of unspoken hostility and resentment are unleashed, and tensions reach a breaking point when Oscar makes a startling accusation against his son.

    The drama is directed by ANPF Artistic Director Kyle Haden and features Rex Young, James Edmondson, Paul Michael Garcia, Kate Berry and Erin O’Connor.

    ANPF also will offer a playwrighting workshop, "Finding the Key," from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 24, taught by the 2015 winning playwrights and moderated by Lewis, at the Unitarian Fellowship. Cost is $10 at the door, or register by emailing See for more information.

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