Avant Bard Theatre Announces ‘Scripts in Play: Season 30’

Six free staged readings plus Happenstance Theater’s "BrouHaHa"

Launching its 30th-anniversary season, Avant Bard Theatre announces Scripts In Play: Season 30—featuring a special presentation of Happenstance Theater’BrouHaHa December 6 to 8, 2019, and six free staged readings December 12 to 22, 2019—all at Theatre on the Run, 3700 South Four Mile Run Drive, Arlington, VA.

Scripts In Play, Avant Bard’s signature play-reading series, showcases fresh scripts with huge potential, presented by rising local professional talent. This year’s selection is about new stories that engage with the past. That might mean stories from antiquity told in a new way, or a fresh twist on characters from the theatrical canon, or stories from history not yet well known. In each specially curated live event, you’ll see artists reckoning right now with what it means to be a classic today.

The cast of ‘BrouHaHa’: Alex Vernon, Gwen Grastorf, Mark Jaster, Sabrina Mandell, Sarah Olmsted Thomas. Photo by Josh Loock.

Last year, Avant Bard began headlining its Scripts In Play Festival with Avant Bard Presents, featuring weekend-long runs of full production from top local performance groups. This year, Avant Bard presents Happenstance Theater’s BrouHaHa December 6 to 8. Happenstance is a professional company committed to devising, producing, and touring original, performer-created visual, poetic theatre. Their ensemble is made up of multitalented performers who craft all aspects of their work from concept to realization. The Washington Post called Happenstance Theater “DC’s leading peddlers of whimsy,” saying that they have “cornered the local theatrical market on joy.” BrouHaHa is an existential escapade inspired by images of refugees fleeing on foot, Edwardian workers, cinematic treasures like La Strada and The Seventh Seal, and the dark comedy of Samuel Beckett.

From December 13 to 22, Scripts In Play will present six unique staged readings, entirely free of admission, showcasing fresh new plays and the hottest up-and-coming talent in the region. Since the festival’s inauguration in 2016, six scripts have been selected for full production by Avant Bard: The Good Devil (in Spite of Himself); the Helen Hayes Award-nominated TAME.; Emilie: La Marquise du Châtelet Defends Her Life Tonight; Illyria, or What You Will; last season’s comic hit A Misanthrope; and Ada and the Engine, which Avant Bard will produce in 2020 as a part of the Avant Bard Spring Repertory. The full schedule of readings and descriptions is below.

“It’s one of the most exciting parts of our season,” says Festival Curator and Avant Bard’s Associate Producer Quill Nebeker. “This year, we’ve stepped up our game. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the incredible work of [Festival Producer] Jon Jon Johnson. He’s tapped us into a whole new network of amazing plays, of directors and performers… This year’s class of Scripts In Play artists is stacked.”

“It is my honor to be serving as Festival Producer, having previously participated in the past as a reader, director, playwright, and actor,” says Johnson. “I’m excited to bring together veteran and newcomer alike into a celebration of artistry and growth with Avant Bard.”


Avant Bard Presents: Happenstance Theater’s BrouHaHa
December 6 & 7 | 7:30 PM
December 8 | 2 PM
Theatre on the Run
Tickets are $27, with a limited number Pay What You Will, and are available online.

BrouHaHa is an existential escapade inspired by images of refugees fleeing on foot, Edwardian workers, cinematic treasures like La Strada and The Seventh Seal, and the dark comedy of Samuel Beckett. In this devised, clownesque piece, Happenstance Theater’s troupe of eccentrics walks the precipice at the end of the world. Their play lights up the darkness like a firecracker. Featuring: Mark Jaster, Sabrina Mandell, Gwen Grastorf, Sarah Olmsted Thomas and Alex Vernon.


Meet Murasaki Shikibu Followed by Book-Signing, and Other Things
By Julia Izumi
Directed by Dan Westbrook
Friday, December 13, 2019 | 7:30 PM
Theatre on the Run

She’s finally doing it. After a millennium, countless translations. and a well-earned place in the canon of literature, she’s…going on a book tour. Who? Oh, only Murasaki Shikibu, the semi-anonymous author of, oh, only the first novel in the history of the world, The Tale of Genji. In this sharp satire, a timeless Lady Murasaki visits your favorite small, independent bookstore. She speaks on important historical subjects like juice cleanses, Taylor Swift, the extremely overrated Sei Shōnagon, and, when she feels like it, her very important book. Along the way, she’ll touch on a millennia of cultural change, what it means to lose one’s language, and what it feels like to be forgotten before you’re ever properly remembered.

The Sweet Science of Bruising
By Joy Wilkinson
Directed by Rebecca Speas
Saturday, December 14, 2019 | 7:30 PM
Theatre on the Run

London, 1869. An amphitheatre in Islington, right at the intersection of London’s upper and lower classes. Tonight’s entertainment? The Lady Boxing Championship of the World. The Sweet Science of Bruising follows four women of widely different standing, all on a quest to be the best. Boxing is brutal, but it’s the fights for women outside the ring, the ones that became the movement we now call Feminism, that leave the deepest bruises. The Sweet Science of Bruising is “a well-aimed swing at the politics of sex and class: …a knockout.” (The Times of London).

By Charles Mee
Directed by Quill Nebeker
Sunday, December 15, 2019 | 2 PM
Theatre on the Run

“(A chicken slowly descends from the flies on a string. It has a sign around its neck that says: bobrauschenbergamerica.)” Thus begins Charles Mee’s absurd collage of pop art Americana. The play was written in the same way Robert Rauschenberg made art: putting things together on a feeling rather than logic, working (as he would’ve said) in the gap between art and life. Before the night is done, you’ll see a laundry ballet, hear a pitch for an extremely problematic but quintessentially American film, experience a truck stop slip ‘n’ slide made of gin and tonic, and feel more than a few love stories and heartbreaks.

Men on Boats
By Jaclyn Backhaus
Directed by Toni Rae Salmi
Thursday, December 19, 2019 | 7:30 PM
Theatre on the Run

Ten explorers. Four boats. One Grand Canyon. Men on Boats is the true(ish) story of an 1869 expedition, when a one-armed captain and a crew of insane but insanely loyal volunteers charted the course of the Colorado River. In this retelling, though, there aren’t any men, nor any boats, for that matter. That’s because the story is performed entirely by people who, well…aren’t men. Called “off-the-canyon-wall funny” by Variety and “marvelously destabilizing both as history and theatre” by New York Magazine, Men On Boats charts a new course in the old story of male bravado. At once comic and sincere, it is an honest look at the fallible intentions of so-called American pioneers.

By Sea
By Laura Fuentes
Directed by Aria Velz
Friday, December 20, 2019 | 7:30 PM
Theatre on the Run

Amanda is the widow captain of the good ship Forthright. At her side is the ever stalwart first mate Henrietta (she’d prefer you call her Hank). While they try to make an honest seafaring living in a feudal town, Amanda’s daughter Priscilla wants to form a family of her own. When timid scholar Neils falls overboard for Priscilla, Hank realizes she may have cabin fever for a certain widow captain herself. Did we mention this all takes place at the docks of Elsinore, featuring cameos straight out of Hamlet? Written in Elizabethan-style free verse, By Sea is a dockside romantic comedy about ships, storms, and sanctuary in unexpected harbors.

Paper Dream
By Lyra Yang
Directed by Jennifer Knight
Sunday, December 22, 2019 | 2 PM
Theatre on the Run

From 1910–40, roughly 175,000 Chinese immigrated to the United States, most through Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. Paper Dream is the story of four generations of Chinese women imprisoned together on Angel Island. It is about the ghosts they left behind, the spirit of who they are, and the dream of what they might become. It is a haunting period drama that reckons with the spectre of nationalism still stalking immigrants at America’s borders.

Avant Bard Theatre’s new 30th-anniversary logo.


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