rehearsal scene
Three New Play Festival participants read through a script. | Courtesy of Derby City Playwrights

It takes about 12 months of planning to pull off the annual Derby City Playwrights’ New Play Festival, but it’s worth every minute, according to Co-Producer and Co-Director Brian Walker. Because after the curtain closes on the final performance, 56 artists from the local theater community will have come together to premiere five original, full-length productions.

The beauty of the New Play Festival — which begins Friday, July 12, and continues through July 28 at The Bard’s Town — is that the five productions are fully scripted, edited, ironed out and tweaked during months of workshops leading up to opening night. Actors and directors get ample time to converse with the writer, and rehearsals begin about a month out.

“It gives local playwrights the opportunity to actually develop a play over the course of 10 months, with meetings and readings with actors and directors in the room, offering feedback with the ultimate goal of making our plays as strong as they can be,” Walker tells Insider.

Brian Walker
Brian Walker

It also helps connect the Louisville theater community through collaboration. After all, 56 artists working on five plays tends to foster new friendships and partnerships.

“A playwright with a finished play is awesome, but a playwright with a director and group of actors who are champions for their work is about the best thing you can hope for as a playwright,” says Walker, whose play “On the Road with Bernice and Robin” is one of the five that’ll debut during the festival.

The other four include “Punk Snot” by Vidalia Unwin, “gods play” by David Clark, “Neutral Position” by Liz Fentress and “No Cake” by Fi Connors. There also will be two readings of scripts still in an early stage, and those are “Good Grief” by Erin Fitzgerald and “The Devil in Clean Pressed Clothes” by Clare Hagan.

Walker’s play, which will be directed by Natalie Fields, is described as a modern-day American odyssey as a mother and daughter travel the country’s zoos, searching for a winning coloring sheet the daughter won a prize with when she was 10. He tells us the story was inspired by a recent cross-country trip he went on with his own mother, and although it is not autobiographical, he worked in many memorable moments and situations to the storyline.

“If you love your mom, if you miss your mom, if you have a complicated relationship with your mom, if you have a great relationship with your mom, I think this play will resonate with you,” Walker says.

Each play will run three times throughout the run of the New Play Festival, and tickets are $18 in advance or $20 at the door. A complete festival pass can be purchased for $80.

actors rehearsing
Actors, directors and writers get ample time to work on a production. | Courtesy of Derby City Playwrights

At the end of the day, Walker hopes the event will not only produce five fantastic original plays but also foster a sense of community.

“Folks who come to see it, obviously I hope they enjoy the shows, but I would also like to inspire more collaborations and cross-pollination within our community,” he says.

The full festival schedule can be found online. The Bard’s Town is located at 1801 Bardstown Road.

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Sara Havens
Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville, known around town as the Bar Belle (barbelleblog.com). 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."