Philadelphia playwright Dave Haris brings “Everybody Black” to the Humana Festival. | Courtesy of Actors Theatre

It’s often said that art imitates life, and there’s no truer statement when glancing at this year’s lineup for Actors Theatre’s 43rd annual Humana Festival of New American Plays.

The five plays chosen will make their world premieres during the festival’s run from March 1 through April 7.  Actors Theatre regulars will recognize some familiar names and welcome some newbies as well.

First up is “We’ve Come to Believe” by Kara Lee Corthron, Emily Feldman and Matthew Paul Olmos, which will be performed by the Professional Training Company. The play touches on the theme of collective delusion and the alarming places it can lead. Here’s more from Actors:

Consider the raw power of groupthink: hordes of collectors losing their minds over the latest consumer fad, hundreds of followers duped by a charismatic leader, and entire communities gripped by irrational panic. How do so many people come to share the same bizarre beliefs? How would we know if we are the ones who are deluded?

Next is “The Corpse Washer,” which has been adapted by Ismail Khalidi and Naomi Wallace from a novel written by Sinan Antoon. The story offers a portrait of an artist’s fight to survive in war-torn Iraq. Here’s more:

In an Iraq beset by decades of war and occupation, Jawad faces a difficult choice. Must he follow in his father’s footsteps washing the bodies of the dead — an honored Muslim tradition — or can he pursue his dreams of being an artist? (The play) is a haunting portrait of a young man coming of age and a society’s fight for survival, in a country where life and death are inextricably intertwined.

The next play is “The Thin Place” by Tony-nominated Lucas Hnath, who has premiered work during the Humana Fest before. The story explores the line between this world and another. Here’s more:

Everyone who ever died is here, just in a different part of here. And if you listen, really listen, you can hear them — in the thin places — the places where the line between our world and some other world is very thin. It’s like if you were to imagine an octopus in an aquarium, pressed up against glass … except that there’s no glass, and no octopus.

The fourth play chosen is “How to Defend Yourself” by Lily Padilla, which is being co-premiered with Victory Gardens Theater. It takes place during a self-defense workshop, where college students debate what it means to really fight back. Here’s more:

Your body is a weapon. So says Brandi, who starts teaching her peers self-defense after fraternity brothers assault one of her sorority sisters. Joined by two male classmates who show up in support, the group learns how to fight back, while wrestling with their own complicated experiences and desires. But how much can a class actually teach them about protecting themselves — and each other? Visceral and provocative, (the play) examines the impact of rape culture, on campus and beyond.

Finally, there is “Everybody Black” by Dave Harris, a comedic look at “The Black Experience.” Here’s more:

When some wealthy white folks offer a big paycheck, a black historian agrees to write the definitive version of The Black Experience. The problem is, the historian has never met another black person. What emerges is a blisteringly funny satire filled with unforgettable characters, including a brazen Barack Obama here to set the record straight, and a talk show about black people addicted to dating white people. With searing wit and bold candor, (the play) explores how we chronicle — and make sense of — Black History.

Last year, more than 38,000 people attended the Humana Festival, representing 41 states and 52 colleges and universities. Weekend tickets packages are now available, and single tickets go on sale starting Jan. 3.

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Sara Havens
Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville, known around town as the Bar Belle ( She's a former editor of LEO Weekly and has written for Playboy and The Alcohol Professor. Havens is the author of two books: "The Bar Belle" and "The Bar Belle Vol. 2."