SCR’s Pacific Playwrights Festival lineup set

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Howard Korder is the biggest name who’ll come to South Coast Repertory’s 12th annual Pacific Playwrights Festival with a script in progress, but stage fans with long memories also may recall Bill Cain, right, who will have his most prominent Southern California theatrical platform since lighting up the Mark Taper Forum 20 years ago with the acclaimed ‘Stand-Up Tragedy.’

Others who will test their new work in staged readings at the May 1-3 gathering in Costa Mesa are the young veteran Julia Cho and relative newcomers Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and David Wiener. Also included in the festival are world-premiere productions of two already-announced shows, whose runs coincide with it: ‘Our Mother’s Brief Affair’ by longtime SCR favorite and Tony-winner Richard Greenberg, and Lauren Gunderson’s ‘Emilie -- the Marquise Du Chatelet Defends Her Life at the Petit Theatre at Cirey Tonight,’ which is graduating to a full production after its staged reading at last year’s Pacific Playwrights Festival.

Stand-Up Tragedy,’ about an idealistic teacher in a tough New York City Catholic school, won several local awards after its 1989 Taper run, and The Los Angeles Times called it ‘the most propulsive and exhilarating show in town, and one of the most thought-provoking.’ New York did not agree, and a Broadway production closed after just 13 performances.

Cain, a Jesuit priest, was in the headlines again in 1997 as co-creator of the short-lived ABC television series, ‘Nothing Sacred,’ which won plaudits from critics and outrage in some Catholic circles for burdening its central character, a priest, with doubts about his faith. The Pacific Playwrights Festival includes Cain’s new play, ‘9 Circles,’ about a soldier who goes through a Dantean hell while fighting in Iraq. The Ojai Playwrights Conference also has been part of Cain’s recent stage return: ‘9 Circles’ was read there last summer, and ‘Equivocation,’ read at Ojai in 2007, will have its world premiere April 18 at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.


Korder (‘Boys’ Life,’ ‘Search and Destroy’) returns to SCR with ‘In a Garden,’ about an American architect and his difficult client -- the culture minister of an Arab country who wants him to design a gazebo for his garden.

Cho, left, (‘The Piano Teacher’) offers ‘The Language Archive,’ about a linguist whose marriage suffers from chronic miscommunication.

The entry from Wiener, whose ‘System Wonderland’ premiered at SCR in 2007, is ‘Extraordinary Chambers,’ about an American businessman and his wife who get thrown off-balance while he tries to broker a deal in Cambodia.

Aguirre-Sacasa’s play, ‘Doctor Cerberus,’ is about a 13-year-old boy who becomes obsessed with the host of a late-night horror-film series on television.

-- Mike Boehm