What happens to Humana Festival plays after they're made stageworthy and spotlighted in the annual celebration of new works at Actors Theater of Louisville? They don't just fade away. "On any given day, somewhere in the world," as ATL notes, "a play is performed or read that had its origin at the Humana Festival."
That's quite an achievement for an event that has kept Louisville on the international theatrical map for 32 years.

The plays also continue to live in book form that ATL says makes them part of the permanent canon of American dramatic literature. More than three-fourths of them have been published in 18 Actors Theater anthologies, as well as individual acting editions.

Just out is the 2007 anthology of complete plays from festival number 31 -- six full-length, three 10-minute, several short works packaged under an "open road" theme, and eight offerings from the first half of 365 Days/365 Plays by Suzan-Lori Parks.
If you saw any of those pieces staged -- or even if you didn't -- you'll find much to savor on the printed page.

Reading Carlos Murillo's dark play or stories for boys, a shattering tale of teenage Internet machinations, will bring back memories of its superb cast (listed in the anthology) for those lucky enough to have seen it. But rewards also await anyone discovering for the first time Murillo's ingenious plot featuring a sexually confused 14-year-old lad who assumes a girl's name on the Web to get inside the head of a simple boy who wants to fall in love.

Strike-Slip by Naomi Iizuka, whose At the Vanishing Point, an imaginatively crafted paean to our historic Butchertown neighborhood, was in the 2004 festival, borrowed an earthquake fault term to categorize her diverse and compellingly drawn Los Angeles characters whose destinies intersect.

Also most readable (and playable) are Sherry Kramer's When Something Wonderful Ends, connecting the playwright's childhood obsession with Barbie dolls to America's frightening dependence on Middle Eastern oil, and the bawdy gender-bending Batch: An American Bachelor/ette Party Spectacle (Alice Tuan wrote the text) performed at the Connection, a Floyd Street gay nightclub.

But don't stop with these. Check out the others "in their eccentric glory," as ATL artistic director Marc Masterson writes in a foreword, in this handsome volume.

Key Subjects: 
Humana Festival, Actors Theater of Louisville, At the Vanishing Point, Naomi Iizuka, Alice Tuan, When Something Wonderful Ends, Carlos Murillo, Batch.
Charles Whaley
Writer Bio: 
Charles Whaley, a former Courier-Journal education editor and retired public relations executive, reviews plays for the newspaper and covers the Humana Festival for TotalTheater and CurtainUp.com
April 2008