Dmae Roberts talks with playwrights Susan Mach and Claire Willett. Oregon Book Award-winner Susan Mach’s A Noble Failure is the winner of CoHo Productions’ NEWxNW Playwrighting Competition. Artist’s Reperatory Theater presents a staged reading of Willett’s Dear Galileo, both as part of the Fertile Ground Festival of New Works. Hear this frank discussion of what it take to get the play from page to stage and the big ideas behind their new works.
Susan Mach’s A Noble Failure is about what happens when a public school gets co-opted by a private for- profit company. The genesis of the play began with the creation of the character Rosalyn, a lifelong teacher who never imagined herself as anything else. She is trying to keep a young Russian immigrant, Ivan, in school after he gets in trouble for tagging the library and destroying a trophy case. Rosalyn is an English teacher modeled after influential instructors of Mach’s.
Much of the play is a response to the current broken public school system. It speaks to how career teachers are being maligned and demonized in the media for economic and social ills beyond their control, and how public schools are being shut down in record numbers, replaced by privately owned charter schools that often cherry-pick students, disregarding those with low incomes and/or learning disabilities.
Claire Willett’s Dear Galileo looks at three women in three different times who wrestle with their identity, the conflict between science and religion, and what it means to be their fathers’ daughters. In Renaissance Italy, Celeste Galilei lives under house arrest with her elderly father Galileo, the disgraced astronomer who wants to defy the Pope yet again by publishing one last book.
In a small town in Texas, creationist author and TV pundit Robert Snow is at a loss when his 10-year-old daughter Haley’s newfound passion for science begins to pull her away from the Biblical teachings of her upbringing. And in Swift Trail Junction, Arizona, home of the Vatican Observatory’s U.S. outpost, New York sculptor Cassie Willows arrives to find that her estranged father, world-renowned astrophysicist Jasper Willows, has gone missing. As the three stories move toward their point of convergence, the destinies of each become inextricably bound with the others, linked through time by love, family, grief, faith and the search for identity.
Show Times:A Noble Failure by Susan Mach
Directed by Erin Lucas
Venue: CoHo Theater
Festival Dates: Sunday, January 22 – 2:00pm, Sunday, January 29 – 7:30pm
Tickets are Pay-What-You-Will | 503.205.0715
Dear Galileo by Claire WillettDirected by Stephanie MulliganVenue: Artists Repertory Theatre, Morrison Stage, 1515 SW Morrison, Portland OR 97205Festival Dates: Jan 21 @ 2pm; Jan 23 @ 7:30pmTickets: Pay What You Will; $10 suggested donation | 503.241.1278
Playwright Susan Mach has an MA in Playwriting from Boston University. Her first play, Monograms, published by Rain City Press in Seattle, received a Portland Drama Critics Circle Award. Her second play, Angle of View, was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award and received readings at Portland Repertory Theatre and Boston Playwrights’ Theatre. For her third play, The Shadow Testament, she received a Woman Writers Fellowship from Literary Arts. Her play, The Difficult Season, a collaboration with renowned jazz pianist and songwriter Dave Frishberg, was workshopped at Artists Repertory Theatre
She was recently awarded a fellowship from Oregon Literary Arts for her latest play, The Lost Boy, which was also part of Portland Center Stage’s JAW/West development series and recently received a staged reading at Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble, and was a winner of the 2011 Angus Bowmer Award for Drama at the Oregon Book Awards.
Playwright Claire Willett was the summer 2011 Writer-In-Residence at the I-Park Artists’ Colony in East Haddam, CT., was named the 2011 Oregon Literary Fellow for Drama, and was a finalist for the 2011 Fox Valley Repertory Collider Project (a new initiative supporting the creation of new plays about science and technology). Three of her plays have been produced as staged readings for Fertile Ground’s Festival of New Works: Upon Waking in 2009, How the Light Gets In in 2010, and That Was the River, This Is the Sea (co-written with Gilberto Martin del Campo) in 2011.
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