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Exploring the Literature of Theatre

The New York State Writers Institute's Authors Theatre was created to bring dramaturgy and audience response into the creative writing process by exploring the literary dimension of plays in progress, rather than showcasing productions of finished works.

Authors Theatre was created to bring dramaturgy and audience response into the creative process. Featuring staged readings of original plays-in-progress or adaptations of work from other genres, Authors Theatre is designed to focus on dramatic writing as literary text and to provide a mechanism to assist playwrights in the creation of new work.

Discussions following the readings allow the audience to interact with the playwright, actors, and director to respond to the work. This allows the playwright to receive valuable feedback on the work for the purpose of revision. In addition to assisting the playwright these discussion sessions also offer the audience a rare glimpse into the creative process as well as an opportunity to contribute to the formation of a work of art.

Authors Theatre two-way conversation transforms to private nature of reading and writing into a more public creative act.



Staged reading of Kathryn Walat's Southern Haunt followed by Q&A with Walat and director Portia Krieger (April 2, 2018)

Playwright Kathryn Walat described Southern Haunt as a "a spooky, sexy Southern gothic play set in Savannah." Her award-winning plays include Creation, for which she was nominated for an LA Stage Alliance Ovation Award; Victoria Martin: Math Team Queen, an Off-Broadway production published in New Playwrights: The Best Plays of 2007; Bleeding Kansas; See Bat Fly; and Ancient Gods of the Backwoods. She also wrote the libretto for the chamber opera, Paul’s Case, which The New Yorker named one of "Ten Notable Performances" for 2014.

Staged reading of Des Moines by Denis Johnson followed by commentary and Q&A with the playwright (November 12, 2012)
Set in a seedy apartment on the edge of Des Moines, Iowa, the play features an unlikely assortment of people who come together for an impromptu party that takes them on a dam-bursting ride down a stream-of-consciousness deluge.

Staged Reading of playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis (April 12, 2010)

 A 1990 UAlbany graduate, Guirgis is one of the leading playwrights of his generation. His works include The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (2005), named one of the “10 Best Plays of the Year” by Time and Entertainment Weekly, and Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train (2000) winner of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe First Award. Five of Guirgis’s plays have been directed by Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Staged reading of Women Playwrights of the Early 20th Century by Judith Barlow (March 11, 2010)
Staged readings of short, rediscovered early 20th century plays from the new volume Women Writers of the Provincetown Players (2009) by UAlbany English Professor Judith E. Barlow. Enormously influential in American drama, the Provincetown Players (1915-22), remembered primarily for productions of Eugene O’Neill’s plays, also featured work by such notable women playwrights as Susan Glaspell, Djuna Barnes, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Louise Bryant.

Staged Readings of Single Black Female and Underground by Lisa Thompson (February 5, 2007) 
Constructed of comic vignettes, Thompson's most recent play, Single Black Female (1999), is a two-woman performance that explores the lives, loves, and identities of middle class African American women. Her new play-in-progress is Underground, an examination of slavery's lingering impact on African-Americans in the twenty-first century. (New York Times review

Three ways of looking at The Moore by Russell Banks: Printed Text, Stage Adaptation, Short film (October 10, 2006)
Russell Banks' award-winning short story "The Moor" is the tender, affecting tale of a chance encounter between a middle-aged man and the 80-year-old woman who had been his lover three decades earlier, when he was 19 and she 49. The Writers Institute will present a unique opportunity to experience the story in three different formats--the printed text, a stage adaptation, and a 2005 screen adaptation by Caerthan Banks, the author's daughter.

Staged reading of Blind Date by Horton Foote (May 1, 2006)
Set in a small Texas town in 1929, Blind Date explores what can happen when adults attempt to play the "matching game" with members of the younger generation. 

Staged reading of Mohawk by Richard Russo (March 9, 2004)
Mohawk, Richard Russo’s 1986 novel, has—for the very first time—been adapted for the stage. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author granted permission to write an adaptation to the NYS Writers Institute and UAlbany theater professor W. Langdon Brown. Mohawk is the story of an upstate New York manufacturing town that suffers from low economic activity, high unemployment, and polluted water. The characters of the play, like the novel, are trapped in less-than-satisfactory circumstances, all of them victims of failed ambitions, bad habits, and unhappy family lives, as well as petty feuds with their neighbors. 

Staged reading of The Doctor Stories by Richard Selzer (February 3, 2004)
Nominated for a Pen/Faulkner Award, The Doctor Stories is an adaptation for the stage of five harrowing, thought-provoking, truth-based medical tales by award-winning author and surgeon Richard Selzer in collaboration with playwright Kathryn G. Maes. Four of the stories are taken from Selzer’s 1998 book of the same name, and one is based on a new autobiographical tale.

Sally by Sandra Seaton performed by Zabryna Guevera (February 4, 2003)
An imaginative recreation of a complex, vital Sally Hemings who refused to be identified as merely the mistress of Thomas Jefferson. The Sally Hemings dramatized here is a woman who seized the opportunity to enjoy French fashion and culture, a woman whose intellect and taste were limited neither by her legal status nor racial categorization. The experience of Paris is central to this Sally Hemings. She never forgot either the freedom it promised or the wider world it offered. The Africa passed down in family stories and the Paris she lived in provide this Sally Hemings with an awareness of societies and standards beyond her own time and place. She will never accept slavery for herself or her children as natural or inevitable.

All Hallowed, by Bill C. Davis (January 31, 2002)
This work-in-progress explores the complex emotions and personal interactions of a family as they deal with a father's death and burial on Halloween.


Blackjack, by Erin Marie Tschantret and Stephen de Seve (February 1, 1999) 
In the tradition of 1930's screwball comedies, Blackjack, the story of a female boxer's rise to fame, is full of laughs with a surprise every minute. Tschantret, an Albany native, is an actor as well as a playwright. She performed the role of Cecily in Capital Rep's production of The Importance of Being Earnest, for which she was named one of the Top Ten Actresses of the Year by Albany's Metroland Magazine. De Seve is a musician, performer and author of the novel In My Grandmothers Garden, and a New York City transportation diary, The Database of Rain.

An evening with Anna Manahan (February 8, 1999)
Irish actress Anna Manahan received a Tony Award nomination in 1969 for her role in the Broadway production of Brian's Friel's Lovers. Returning to Broadway 30 years later, Manahan won the 1998 Tony Award for her portrayal of "Mag" in the critically acclaimed production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane. Born in Waterford City, Manahan has played numerous roles in Irish and English theatre and television over an acting career spanning five decades. Manahan will present scenes from her plays and reflect on her life in the theatre. 


Oscar Wilde: Confounding the Critics and Surviving the Scandal (February 10, 1999)
Merlin Holland, grandson of Irish dramatist Oscar Wilde and author of The Wilde Album, will reflect on how Wilde, always a mirror of the times, moved from a first-rate funny man in the second rank of dramatists to a member of the Literary Pantheon. As a preface to Holland's lecture, Authors Theatre will present readings of scenes from Wilde's four comedies: Lady Windemere's Fan, A Woman of No Importance, An Ideal Husband, and The Importance of Being Earnest. As Wilde had said, "life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about it." (Times Union article)

Side Man, by Warren Leight (January 26, 1998)
A 1950's jazz sax player destroys his family in his quest for perfection in his music. As told by his son, a slick commercial writer, this memory play is both an indictment of artistic obsession and a search for deliverance from mediocrity. Warren Leight is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter whose works include the plays of Stray Cats and The Loop and the films "The Night We Never Met" and "Me and Him."

Reading and demonstration by Mary Gallagher (February 2, 1998)
Mary Gallagher, award-winning playwright, screenwriter, and fiction writer, was in in residence at Capital Repertory in Albany in 1998. Recipient of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Gallagher will create an adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth with 60 actors from the Capital District in a series of workshops on mask-making, movement, and improvisation. Her reading/demonstration will be an introduction to the scope of her work, which ranges from realistic slice-of-life drama to storytelling with mask and myth.

The Talk, by Frank Pugliese (February 9, 1998)
Naked Angels, a New York City theatre collective, will present a reading of playwright and screenwriter Frank Pugliese's newest work about four brothers who struggle to understand their mother's suicide. An artistic director for Naked Angels, Pugliese's plays include The Summer Winds, The King of Connecticut, and Aven'U Boy, which won an Obie Award. He also has written episodes for the television series "Homicide" and "Fallen Angels."

A staged reading of A Question of Mercy, by David Rabe (February 12, 1998)
Adapted from the essay by Dr. Richard Selzer 
Dr. Richard Selzer's essay on a physician-assisted suicide of an AIDS patient was originally published in the Sunday New York Times Magazine. Playwright David Rabe's adaption premiered at the New York Theatre Workshop on February 7, 1997. Following a reading of Rabe's play, Dr. Selzer will provide commentary and discuss the artistic differences between his original essay and the adaptation.


The Last Man in Europe: George Orwell in His Own Words by Mark Weston (January 27, 1997)
Piecing together George Orwell's prose from his novels, essays, journalism and letters, Mark Weston has created a two-act drama on the life of the English author. Recently presented at Eton, Oxford and London, England the play stars Michael Allinson as Orwell and is directed by Michael Alexander. Cosponsored by the Greater Capital Region Teacher Center

Henry James' The Turn of the Screw, adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher (February 8, 1997)
An adaptation of Henry James' novella of children, ghosts, and unreality. Hatcher's version features two actors playing all the parts. Hatcher's most recent plays include Two Nikita and Three Viewings. New York Magazine has called Hatcher, "a new, true, idiosyncratic voice in the theater."

Miserere, by Robert Stone (February 15, 1997)
Novelist and short story writer Robert Stone, author of the novels A Hall of Mirrors (1967), Dog Soldiers (1974), which won the National Book Award, A Flag for Sunrise (1981), Children of Light (1986), and Outerbridge Reach (1992), has adapted his short story Miserere into a play. A controversial story of abortion, Catholic faith and responsibility, Miserere first appeared in the June 24 and July 1, 1996 summer fiction issue of The New Yorker.

A staged reading of Shopping Cart Soldiers, by John Mulligan (December 3, 1997)
This staged reading with movement, dance, and music of the dramatic adaptation of John Mulligan's novel is developed from a workshop conducted by University at Albany Theatre Department faculty and students. Shopping Cart Soldiers makes use of expressionist, surreal, and fabulist theatre conventions. The play was concurrently be developed by the San Jose Stage Company.
"This book is unprecedented in conveying the mythic truth of war." - Maxine Hong Kingston

Grand View by William Kennedy (January 13, 1996)
Albany's Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, William Kennedy reveals a secret piece of Albany's history. Grand View dramatizes a titanic clash between the Democratic machine of Albany County and the Republicans controlling the State house.

The Black Swan by Richard Selzer (January 27, 1996)
Richard Selzer, author of nine collections of essays and stories, including his autobiography Down From Troy (1992) and his most recent work Raising the Dead (1994), is a retired surgeon. Termed "the poet laureate of medicine" by the Wall Street Journal, Selzer returned to an oddly medical subject in this dramatic rewriting of Thomas Mann's novella about a woman "cured" by love.


Irene Worth's Portrait of Edith Wharton by actress Irene Worth (February 2, 1996)
Three- time Tony Award winner Irene Worth evoked the inner life of novelist Edith Wharton in a performance she adapted from Wharton's letters, diaries, novels, and autobiography. "It's sharing literature with friends," Worth said, "like an old-fashioned evening."

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