Playwrights fest unveils fresh talent

'Teacher,' 'System' to join South Coast Rep's season

HOLLYWOOD — The ninth edition of the Pacific Playwrights Festival was laden with works from fresh scribes, unlike some past editions that have preemed works by the likes of Richard Greenberg and Donald Margulies. But the newcomers more than held their own, with two plays chosen to join host South Coast Repertory’s 2006-07 season.

Julia Cho’s “The Piano Teacher” and David Wiener’s “System Wonderland” both were seen in staged readings during the May 5-7 fest. Cho’s “Teacher” will replace the previously announced “The Zinc Bed” in a March 11-April 1 run. (Her earlier play “The Winchester House” is currently being staged in Pasadena.) Wiener’s “Wonderland” follows with an April 22-May 13 engagement.

The first edition of the fest, programmed by SCR dramaturg John Glore and co-director Megan Monaghan, offered a selection of staged readings, semi-staged productions and world-premiere works to nearly 1,500 ticket buyers and 45 legit pros from resident companies around the U.S.

The play that really got auds talking was Sarah Treem’s “Empty Sky.” At first, what they were saying was, “Louder!” — the unmiked actors were not projecting. Afterwards, however, they were discussing the themes of faith, family and conflict in the play, a modern interpretation of the biblical story of Abraham and Sarah.

Brian Kerwin played a has-been screenwriter eager for a comeback, with Shannon Cochran as his actress wife, in “System Wonderland.” Nathan Baesel was the ambitious scribe who comes between them in Orange County native Wiener’s story, a Hollywood-set “All About Eve.”

Keith Reddin, the best-known name among the scribes, contributed “Human Error,” about two romantically involved NTSB investigators and the witness to the plane crash they’re working on.

This year’s semi-staged production, an SCR commission, was Victoria Stewart’s “Leitmotif,” about a woman trying to uncover the secrets of her late poet mother’s life.

All of the playwrights, including “The Studio’s” Christopher D’Amboise and “Blue Door’s” Tanya Barfield, were in residence over the weekend. Among actors taking part were Adam Wylie, Allan Miller, Steven Culp, Linda Gehringer and Jane A. Johnston. Directors including Art Manke and Kate Whoriskey also were present.

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