Cruz in control at Pacific Playwrights fest

Scribe finds Pulitzer hoopla distracting, hopes to focus on writing

COSTA MESA, Calif. — So you’ve just won the Pulitzer Prize for drama — what are you going to do? Nilo Cruz didn’t quite go to Disneyland, but he was close to it during South Coast Repertory’s sixth annual Pacific Playwrights Festival. The May 16-18 event drew actors, playwrights and directors from all over the country, as well as reps from resident theaters in search of the hot new play.

All indications are that this year that’s Cruz’s “Anna in the Tropics,” which is set for at least three productions this fall, with talk of Broadway in the air. Jimmy Smits, who starred as the lector in the SCR reading, is expected to take the same role at the McCarter Theater’s fall production, and Cruz was pleased with his performance.

Meanwhile, the scribe said, he’d just finished rewrites on his “Lorca in a Green Dress,” which started rehearsals over Memorial Day weekend at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Cruz admitted the hoopla surrounding the Pulitzer has been distracting. “I need to get back to being a writer,” he said.

Cruz wasn’t the only one trying to mix work and pleasure at PPF. Jeff Whitty confessed that in addition to fine-tuning “The Hiding Place,” which received a workshop production starring Bruce Davison, Emily Bergl and James Waterston, he’s rewriting Off Broadway hit “Avenue Q” as it prepares to move to the Golden Theater in July. Although it’s Broadway’s most “intimate house,” he said, he’s making the puppet tuner a bit “bigger.”

The chance to take the first crack at work by the likes of Donald Margulies, Amy Freed and Howard Korder drew a strong talent contingent. Fresh from his perf as a somewhat Fish-y recovering sitcom writer in Howard Korder’s “Sea of Tranquility,” Greg Germann disputed any similarities between himself and the characters he plays: “I may be shallow, but I’m not vacuous.”

Many of the actors and playwrights turned out to watch each other’s work including Donald Margulies’ “Brooklyn Boy” and Amy Freed’s “Safe in Hell,” latter set for a fall production at SCR. Among them: playwright Rolin Jones and thesps Melody Butiu, Linda Gehringer and April Hong from “The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow”; actors Kimberly Scott, Sal Lopez, Richard Doyle, Adriana Sevan and Hamish Linklater; and PPF director Jerry Patch.

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