Alibar's 'Southern Wild' got 'Juicy' start at New York's Tank
Theater folks have likely heard by now of indie film sensation “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” thanks to its buzzy Sundance debut, its Camera d’Or win at Cannes and, in recent weeks, the impressive per-screen averages of its Fox Searchlight release.But they probably don’t know that the film and its writer, Lucy Alibar, have their roots in the Gotham legit scene. Alibar’s a playwright, an artistic associate at New York theater troupe New Georges and a member of Ensemble Studio Theater’s Youngblood group. The script for “Beasts,” co-penned by director Benh Zeitlin, is based on her play “Juicy and Delicious,” initially written by Alibar in 2000 and performed at midtown performance venue the Tank in 2007. Alibar first met Zeitlin when, as teens, they both participated in Young Playwrights’ festival of works by young scribes. Her next film project, an as-yet-untitled outing to be produced by Escape Artists’ Todd Black, is based on another play, “Christmas and Jubilee Behold the Meteor Shower,” written as part of her gig as founder of the Writer/Director Lab at New Georges. The Florida Panhandle native got turned on to theater when she discovered the works of Ntozake Shange and Spalding Gray, and went on to study at New York U.’s Experimental Theater Wing. She’s since penned legit works — including “Slutty Slutty Butterslut,” a song cycle about baking; and “A Friend of Dorothy,” a play about Judy Garland — that have been developed or produced at Williamstown Theater Festival, Joe’s Pub and Here, among other orgs. Those who have seen “Beasts” may have trouble imagining what the atmospheric and magical-realist tale, about the young Hushpuppy and her dying father in a post-Katrina swampland, could possible have looked like onstage. As the pic developed during its stint at the Sundance Institute, it changed locations from Georgia to Louisiana and saw its main character, a 9-year-old boy in the play, become an even younger girl. (The latter shift was prompted by the open-audition discovery of the film’s star, Quvenzhane Wallis.) But still, Alibar says, “The play was those same characters and that same story, about the heroism of learning to take care of someone.” With the pic adaptation of “Christmas and Jubilee” — which revisits two childhood friends, at various stages of their lives, each time they meet on a hilltop to wait for a meteor shower — already in the works, Alibar has plenty of momentum going in her film career. But she’s still writing for the stage as well, most recently exploring autobiographical solo storytelling. At the moment, she finds herself better known for her film work than her stage resume. And she’s still getting used to being well-known at all. “I’ve always been a downtown theatermaker,” Alibar says. “I’m used to people not paying any attention to me!”
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