A! Magazine for the Arts

Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights

December 30, 2019

Barter’s 20th Annual Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights is set for Jan. 23-26, at Barter’s Smith Theatre.

Now in its 20th year, the AFPP has gained national attention by developing new Appalachian plays that have gone on to be produced in regional theatres across the country.

The play readings take place at Barter’s Smith Theatre and are free of charge. The plays are read by Barter Theatre’s Resident Acting Company, and each play reading is followed by a discussion with a panel and the audience.

“Both the reading and the discussion are a crucial part of the new play development process,” says Nicholas Piper, director of the AFPP. “Getting feedback from an audience is fundamental to helping the playwright refine their play.”

The 2020 AFPP lineup includes: “They Must be Women Now” by Nedra Pezold Roberts, “Charlottesville” by Catherine Bush, “In the Middle of Nowhere” by Bret Murphy, “Project X” by Taylor Hatch, “The Field” by Emily Emerson, “Nightjar” by Hannah Hartmann and “The Quiet Zone” by Augusto Federico Amador.

“I’m truly excited about this selection of plays,” says Piper. “I hope people will come out and be part of the process of developing new Appalachian work.”

“They Must Be Women Now” by Nedra Rezold Roberts, is read Jan. 23 at 7 p.m. Four women, all confined in traps forged by their own time, culture, and individual journeys, are forced to discover themselves—and challenged to “become women now.”

Catherine Bush’ “Charlottesville,” is read Jan. 24 at 1 p.m. When Civil War re-enactor Curtis Jenkins is accused of being racist by a black fourth grader, he begins a fantastical journey down the rabbit-hole known as American race relations. One hot August day in Charlottesville, a Unite the Right rally explodes into violence, and Curtis must decide for himself how to judge the past from the present.

“In the Middle of Nowhere” by Bret Murphy is read Jan. 24 at 4 p.m. Cynthia Scott is a retired art professor who escapes to the Black Mountains of North Carolina after leaving her partner in Atlanta. After purchasing a rundown trailer and two acres of land, her plan of settling into a life of solitude and shame is disrupted by a number of people in the community. These relationships force her to confront her ultimate question: will she accept forgiveness?

“Project X” by Taylor Hatch is read Jan. 25 at 1 p.m. In 1944, a high school science teacher reads a newspaper ad: “Physicists Needed for Project X: a Project that will Win the War.” Eager to aid in the war effort, he immediately whisks his young family off to a secret city in the hills of Tennessee where he learns that his assignment is much heavier than he anticipated. Based on a true story.

“The Field” by Emily Emerson comes to life Jan. 25 at 4 p.m. The town of Avon is in trouble. One morning, a mysterious crop circle appears and with it, a series of unexplainable events cause the citizens to confront the question: If miracles do exist, what do you do with one when you get it?

“Nightjar” by Hannah Hartmann is read Jan. 26 at 1 p.m. This is Eastern Kentucky, coal country. In 1950, a mining family is kicking off coal dust; business is good, and Della is the first of her family to leave for college. In 2017, the coal dust’s scrubbed clean, but Della’s still here, housing a family she didn’t expect. “Nightjar” is a test of grace under pressure, from the interior and the exterior.

“The Quiet Zone” by Augusto Federico Amador is read Jan. 26 at 4 p.m. In Green Bank, West Virginia, home to the Robert C. Byrd telescope and located within the “National Radio Quiet Zone,” Krista has found relief from her turbulent past in her garden. But when her estranged daughter, Becky, arrives with a hidden motive, Krista can no longer evade the consequences of being an absent mother. A story about lost and rediscovered motherhood.

For full details on the event and lineup, visit www.bartertheatre.com/playwriting-festivals or call 276-628-3991. You can RSVP with Barter Theatre’s Box Office by calling 276-628-3991, but no reservations are required.