Wednesday, August 2, 2023

TheatreWorks to present 20th New Works Festival

"My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding," written by "Come From Away" duo Irene Sankoff and David Hein was presented in the 2017 New Works Festival.

Audiences for TheatreWorks Silicon Valley will have a chance to see what might become the next big hit when the company presents its 20th anniversary New Works Festival Aug. 11-20 in Palo Alto.

Some of the hits that have emerged from the festival have included Tony-winning “Memphis” as well as “Nan and the Lower Body,” “Jane Austen’s Emma” and others.

This year’s event will feature staged readings of one musical, three plays and some special events. In a staged reading, the actors use scripts with limited movement and no sets or costumes.

Dinner and a conversation with playwrights David Henry Hwang and Rajiv Joseph start the festivities at 8 p.m. Aug. 11. Admission is $325 for both events or $75 for the conversation only.

“Happy Pleasant Valley: A Senior Sex Scandal Murder Mystery Musical” by Min Kahng and directed by Jeffrey Lo, is the first new work, playing at 8 p.m. Aug. 12, 7 p.m. Aug. 16 and 8 p.m. Aug. 19. When a woman learns that her grandmother is about to be kicked out of her senior apartment, she springs into action. Grandma is in hot water because her active sex life seems to kill the men she sleeps with.

Coming up next is a dark comedy, “Nerve” by Minita Gandhi,” at 3 p.m. Aug. 13 and 3 p.m. Aug. 19. Described as a multigenerational journey that explores the legacy and the love of food, it will include dishes cooked on stage and served to the audience.

Food also is involved in “Madeleines” by Bess Welden at 8 p.m. Aug. 17 and 3 p.m. Aug. 20. Jewish sisters, whose mother has just died, grapple “with how to love each other through haunted pasts, shared grief and the solace of baking together.” Leslie Martinson directs.

Giovanna Sardelli, the festival’s longtime director who has just been named TheatreWorks artistic director, directs, “Low Expectations” by Michael Gaston, slated for 7 p.m. Aug. 15 and noon Aug. 19. Encouraged to write about his family, Gaston wrote a true monologue about relatives during the Civil War and later and a fictional short story set in Northern California. They’re combined into a play with music.

Besides the conversation with playwrights Joseph and Hwang, special events will include a performance by actor and transgender activist Shakina followed by an after party at 7 p.m. Aug. 18. Tickets are $150 for the show and party, $50 for the show only.

The festival will wrap up with a chance to meet and hear from the playwrights and composers at noon Aug. 20. Moderated by Lo, TheatreWorks casting director and literary manager, it will allow questions by the audience.

Season passes for the staged readings and the latter are $60 ($55 for Season 53 subscribers). Tickets for it and the individual readings are $20. There are no assigned seats.

All events will take place at the Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto.

For tickets and more information call (650) 463-1960 or visit


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