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Unusual lineup at Louisville festival; Plays: Playwrights turn the traditional format of plays upside down by staging them in a car, on the phone and on a T-shirt; THEATER


In its 23-year history, Actors Theatre of Louisville's prestigious Humana Festival of New American Plays has helped launch such impressive works as D.L. Coburn's "The Gin Game," Beth Henley's "Crimes of the Heart," William Mastrosimone's "Extremities" and John Pielmeier's "Agnes of God."

This year's festival kicks off in Louisville, Ky., on Feb. 23 with the theater's most unusual lineup yet. In addition to five full-length plays and eight 10-minute plays (a format the theater began presenting in 1979), the 1999 festival includes T-shirt plays, phone-booth plays and a car play.

If you're not familiar with these genres, here's how they work. T-shirt plays (the "T" stands for "text") are written on the front of T-shirts and "performed" simply by donning the shirt. The selection includes "Merchandising" by David Henry Hwang, "Stuffed Shirts" by Jane Martin, "Manifesto" by Naomi Wallace, "To T or Not to T" by Wendy Wasserstein, "The Fez" by Mac Wellman and an untitled T-shirt by Tony Kushner.

Phone booth plays consist of three-minute conversations that theatergoers listen to by picking up receivers in phone booths in the theater's lobby. What they will hear is: "The Visitation" by Becky Reynolds, "Will You Accept the Charges?" by Neal Bell, "Happy Birthday Jack" by Diana Son, "Speech Therapy" by Rebecca Gilman and "Them" by David Greenspan.

The car play is Richard Dresser's "What Are You Afraid Of?", a short comedy presented in a car, parked in front of the theater.

As to the more conventional, full-length plays, they are: "Cabin Pressure" by Anne Bogart, an exploration of the relationship between actors and audiences; "Y2K" by Arthur Kopit, about a world without privacy; "The Cockfighter," a drama that uses cockfighting as a metaphor in a coming-of-age story, adapted by director Vincent Murphy from Frank Manley's best-selling novel; "God's Man in Texas" by David Rambo, an examination of the power struggle at a Baptist church; and "Aloha, Say the Pretty Girls" by Naomi Iizuka, a quirky look at the search for family.

This season's 10-minute plays all fall under the heading "Life Under 30." They range from "Drive Angry" by Matt Pelfry, a play set in Los Angeles traffic, to "Slop-Culture" by Robb Badlam, about a job opportunity that hinges on TV trivia.

The festival runs through March 28. For more information, call 502-584-1205.

'Footloose' appetizer

You can shake a leg and get a peek at what "Footloose" has in store for local theatergoers when 100 area dancers perform the title number of the Broadway musical at White Marsh Mall on Saturdayfrom 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

The dancing will take place on the lower level of the mall, in front of Lord & Taylor, and will be led by an instructor from the Broadway production. The 100 Baltimore dancers -- students from local high schools, as well as dance and aerobics students -- have already boned up on the steps from a video distributed by the show's producers. All onlookers are invited to learn the routine and join in.

Based on the 1984 movie about a small town that bans dancing, "Footloose" is adapted for the stage by director Walter Bobbie and Dean Pitchford, author of the screenplay and the show's lyricist. In addition to the movie score, which included such Top 40 songs as "Let's Hear It for the Boy" and "Almost Paradise," Pitchford and composer Tom Snow have written nine new songs for the musical.

"Footloose" will be presented at the Mechanic Theatre Feb. 23-28. Tickets are $36-$64. Call 410-752-1200.

Playwright interviews

Washington's Corcoran Gallery of Art is presenting a series of interviews with four noted American playwrights, conducted by Michael Kahn, artistic director of the Shakespeare Theatre.

Here's the schedule: Feb. 17, Eric Bogosian; March 10, Wendy Wasserstein; March 12, Edward Albee; and March 17, Alfred Uhry. The cost of the series is $95 ($75 for Corcoran members); individual lectures are $30 ($25 for members). Each session begins at 7: 30 p.m. The Corcoran is at 500 17th St. N.W., Washington. Call 202-639-1770.


Maryland Arts Festival, Towson University. Summer arts program. "Godspell" and "Rags: Children of the Wind." Friday-Saturday in the Center for the Arts, Room 342, on campus, Osler and Cross Campus drives. 4: 30 p.m. to 6: 30 p.m. Friday, children only; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, adults only. Callbacks Sunday for "Godspell" and "Rags," Feb. 22 for "Rags." Call 410-830-2076

Open Space Arts. Shakespeare's "Love's Labors Lost." 7 p.m. March 8-9 at Franklin Elementary School, Cockeys Mill Road. Open to ages 10 and up, but roles for ages 10-13 and non-speaking are very limited. Ages 14 and older should prepare a Shakespearean monologue, one minute or less, or a Shakespearean sonnet. Call 410-526-9377.

Pumpkin Theatre. "Rapunzel." Adult male actor needed to play the role of Marcus. Paid position. Acting and singing required. Production scheduled for March. For appointment, call 410-828-1645. -- Karin Remesch

Pub Date: 2/15/99

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