Pacific Playwrights to host a few history lessons

Times Staff Writer

The Roman Emperor Nero and Voltaire’s lover, the author-mathematician Emilie du Chatelet, will provide historical blasts from the past during the annual Pacific Playwrights Festival, which offers early looks at five plays-in-development, May 2-4 at in Costa Mesa.

Amy Freed, who comically examined the idea of Shakespeare as something less than the sole creator of Shakespearean plays in “The Beard of Avon,” fiddles with the notion of Nero commissioning a play about himself in “You, Nero” on May 4.

Newcomer Laurie Gunderson, still in grad school at New York University, offers an appraisal of one of the Enlightenment’s leading women in “Emilie: The Marquise du Chatelet Defends Her Life at the Petit Theatre at Cirey Tonight” on May 2.

Lynn Nottage, whose “Intimate Apparel” went from a South Coast co-premiere to broader success, returns with “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark” on May 2. It traces the relationship between a Hollywood film diva and her African American maid from the 1930s to the present.


The festival’s two other works-in-progress unfold on campuses: “Sunlight,” by Sharr White, concerns a charismatic college president who courts controversy; it will have workshop stagings May 2-4. John Kolvenbach, whose comedy “Love Song” premiered at Steppenwolf in Chicago and was nominated for an Olivier Award in London, offers “Goldfish” on May 3, billed as “a wistful romance” in which two opposites-attract college students fall in love but are tested by their eccentric parents.

Running concurrently with the festival are two world premiere productions: “The Injured Party,” by Richard Greenberg (“Three Days of Rain,” “Take Me Out”), is about New Yorkers responding to Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s 2005 festooning of Central Park with orange fabric “gates”; “What They Have,” by Kate Robin, a former writer for HBO’s “Six Feet Under,” concerns haves and have-nots in the arts and entertainment world.

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