A few years ago, when discussing the pros and cons of premiering new works to local audiences for a Backstage article, River Stage Artistic Director Frank Condon said it was “wrong-headed” to second-guess an audience’s taste.
“It’s the wrong way to approach programming,” he said. “The best way for me to pick things is to pick things I’m extremely excited about and want to see. I’d rather lead the audience rather than have the audience lead me.”
Condon’s heroic sensibility in programming challenging work with a conscience has led to several well-received world premieres at the Cosumnes River College-based River Stage – many of them borne from the theater’s “Playwright’s Festival of New Works,” which opens its 12th season with the first of two staged readings of Lee Boek’s “Confessions of a Pulpiteer” at 8 p.m. July 16.
Alina Trowbridge’s “The Little Mermaid is Not for Children,” directed by Condon, will close the festival with staged readings at 8 p.m. July 30 and July 31.
“Mermaid” also ends a celebrated chapter in Condon’s career. During the 15 years he helmed River Stage as artistic director and founder, he has provided socially relevant plays that not only enlightened and inspired CRC students (whom he will continue to teach as a River Stage faculty member), but Sacramento-area audiences as well.
Author Mark Medoff, best known for his Tony-winning drama “Children of a Lesser God,” was among the playwrights who participated in the inaugural PFNW, workshopping his “Gunfighter: A Gulf War Chronicle” at River Stage. A longtime colleague and friend, Medoff praised Condon for providing such a unique opportunity for himself and his fellow playwrights.
“For a small college like (Cosumnes River College) to be able to jump on someone’s bandwagon like Frank’s and mix professionals with students – that’s quite extraordinary,” said Medoff. “I spent many early years of my playwriting career chastising colleges for not developing new material. Many are now responding to that mandate, producing student work and hosting events like this where playwrights are invited to the campus.”
“It can be a great teaching experience for students,” he continued, “while serving someone like me who can work on his play at a leisurely pace in a creative environment.”
Directed by Peter Kors, “Confessions of a Pulpiteer” “gives a fascinating insight into the attractions and complexities of the American evangelical movement.”
“The Little Mermaid is Not for Children” shares the not-always-happily-ever-after reality of middle age. When Carrie Milton’s mother dies, she finds herself in the center of familial discord involving her sisters, with the play often drawing upon “the often expurgated details from the original ‘Little Mermaid’ story to explore how people face, or don’t face, their mid-life demons and sea witches.”
JUST THE FACTS
- WHAT: The 12th annual River Stage Playwright’s Festival of New Works, featuring staged readings of Lee Boek’s “Confessions of a Pulpiteer” and Alina Trowbridge’s “The Little Mermaid is Not for Children”
- WHEN: “Confessions of a Pulpiteer” (8 p.m. July 16 and 17); “The Little Mermaid is Not for Children” (8 p.m. July 30 and 31)
- WHERE: River Stage, 8401 Center Parkway, Sacramento (on the campus of Cosumnes River College)
- HOW MUCH: $7 general; $5 students/seniors/groups/SARTA/League of Sacramento Theatres
- MORE INFO: riverstage.org; [email protected]; (916) 691-7364