It's almost time to see what Midwest playwrights came up with this year for Heartland Theatre's Mike Dobbins Memorial New Plays from the Heartland. For this short play project, Heartland asked playwrights in nine Midwestern states -- Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, Ohio or Wisconsin -- to come up with brand-new, never-before-produced plays inspired by the idea of "A Key." How playwrights interpret that "Key" is up to them, as long as the play has between two and six characters and will it run between 20 and 35 minutes when performed. Heartland judges read all the plays entered, chose six finalists, and then sent those finalist plays to a nationally-known playwright to select the three winners whose work will receive a staged reading at Heartland.
This year, the playwright-in-residence is Chicago's Mia McCullough, a "screenwriter, teacher, filmmaker and occasional stand-up comedian" who also happens to write plays like Chagrin Falls, which won the 2001 American Theatre Critics Association Osborn Award and was a finalist for the ATCA/Steinberg New Play Award. It also earned McCullough Joseph Jefferson and After Dark Awards for Best New Work, a Cincinnati Entertainment Award for Best Production, and First Prize in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition.
In addition to offering an open forum for the public at 7:30 pm on Thursday, July 14, McCullough will be in town to conduct a workshop with the three winning playwrights, who are Steven Peterson and Alyssa Ratkovich from Chicago and Jaquelyn Priskorn from Troy City, Michigan. Ratkovich's name may be familiar to Heartland audiences as an actress, since she starred opposite Lori Adams in Rona Munro's Iron in 2014 and appeared in numerous ten-minute plays at Heartland during her time as an ISU student.
The three winning plays are variations on the "Key" theme, with Peterson's Key Ring working with a group of characters tied together by a man in their lives; Priskorn's Good Morning, Miriam taking a look at an elderly woman trying to find the key that makes sense of her life; and Ratkovich's päzədiv (Positive) focusing on three characters with varying styles, but a common goal -- escape.
Key Ring, Good Morning, Miriam and päzədiv (Positive) are directed by Illinois State University professor Cyndee Brown, one of Heartland's best directors, and will be presented Friday, July 15, at 7:30 pm, Saturday, July 16, at 7:30 pm, and Sunday, July 17, at 2 pm.
New Plays from the Heartland is considered a special event, partially funded by a grant from the Town of Normal Harmon Arts Grant, and as such, not part of a regular Heartland subscription, so Flex Passes will not be accepted. The suggested donation is $5 for tickets.
For all the details on the Thursday forum and weekend performances, click here. For more general information on the Mike Dobbins Memorial New Plays from the Heartland project, try this link.