Love new work? Keen to discover the next generation of theatremakers? Corkscrew Theater Festival has once again taken over the Paradise Factory in downtown Manhattan with an all-new lineup of adventurous new plays and artists.
The festival, a collaboration between nonprofit theatre collective The Brewing Dept. and Broadway producer Alexander Donnelly’s Fortress Productions, will present five world premieres and four readings performed in repertory July 10 through August 5.
Following a successful inaugural year, Corkscrew's founders deliberately sought out plays with ambitious visions and designs—from mermaids swimming underwater to a pie shop overflowing with toxic sludge—and whose themes and ideas could be both in conversation with each other and New York audiences. The plays themselves are wild and varied, transporting audiences from a soccer field in Turkey to the bodegas of the Bronx—a reflection of the diverse lineup of playwrights and creative teams that make up this year's festival.
“It’s a really lovely tapestry of people and backgrounds and perspectives,” says artistic director Thomas Kapusta. “We’re a festival that is trying to re-imagine what a festival could be, but we’re only successful if that re-imagining showcases artists that are as representative of the incredible diversity of this city. I think we’ve done that here.”
We spoke to the five mainstage playwrights to get the lowdown on what their plays are about, why you should see them, and what is driving them to make theatre today.
The End of Mermaids
Name: Anya Richkind (Playwright)
My play is about…Four women—one who is the best professional mermaid, one who is the second best, one who just got there, and one who runs the establishment. And an alligator.
Come and see it if you are into…. Mermaids, women being friends, women loving each other, alligators hungry for human flesh, performance politics, original music, and bubblegum swamp.
Other work of mine you may know: tender of you too (upcoming at The Tank, July 24–29).
I am really into theatre that is… FREAKY! I want plays that are slimy, sweet, and strange. I want plays that taste like something. I want plays that hit you in your gut and even though you know it's not real, because it couldn't all be real, you're so freaking into it. I'm into theatre that is absolutely riveting and a little bit nonsensical, that prioritizes emotional impact over plot and surprise over conventional structure.
I am a playwright because... I just really love it! I love the collaboration and the self-made community; I love the playfulness and the trial and error. I feel like I'm this weird scribe trying out different ideas, and recording the successful ones, but we're all making this world come to life together. I don't think being a writer has to be lonely. Or at least that's not how I want to do it.
And I’m driven to make theatre right now because... It feels like the only way to process all the weird things that happen all the time. I think distilling that weirdness into a communal presentation, sitting with it for an hour and a half, and digesting it in a room full of other living people is immensely helpful. I think it is provocative and uncomfortable and comforting at the same time. Then when the play is over, you can talk about it and even if it doesn't get better, you know you're not the only one experiencing this bizarre world.
The End of Mermaids is directed by Allison Benko and produced by Alexandra Cadena, and will run July 12-22
Name: Melis Aker (Playwright)
My play is about… A woman who returns to Turkey after 10 years only to realize it isn’t home anymore. The play takes place on a soccer field (and occasionally in cyber space) on the eve of the attempted coup d’état in Turkey in 2016, and tells the story of a group of disenfranchised old friends who, over the course of the evening, come to realize what it was that really drove them apart.
Come and see it if you are into… Language plays, fractured relationships, colloquial jargon, humor, and political intrigue.
Other work of mine you may know: As a writer: Manar and 330 Pegasus. As an actor: The Blacklist: Redemption; Love in Afghanistan.
I am really into theatre that is… Political, psychological, witty, physical, spatial, language-driven.
I am a playwright because... Spoken words and communally witnessed action seem to be my only weapon against feeling politically helpless these days.
And I’m driven to make theatre right now because... We need to find ways to actively visualize and rethink a world in which we can propose an alternate reality as opposed to feeling trapped within the one imposed on us. And we need to be in a space, together, where there is no tangible, personal gain.
Field, Awakening is directed by Tatiana Pandiani and produced by Mei Li Heman, and will run July 14–22.
Pie Shop Play
Name: Alice Penvavel (Playwright)
My play is about…Language, desire, pie, boundaries, the utter silliness of human folly, and the insatiable need for escape.
Come and see it if you are into… Queerness (in every sense of the word...), poetry, plays that know they are plays.
Other work of mine you may know: Daphne, The Glowing Boot, Totally Wholesome Foods.
I am really into theatre that... Tactfully breaks rules, is unafraid of discomfort, and remains unabashedly rooted in an authentic voice. I'm in to plays wherein the social/political is made intimate, and I've been made to think and feel.
I am a playwright because... Writing is like speaking in silence—and oh! The freedom of that! What glory then, to hear it aloud.
And I’m driven to make theatre right now because… The opportunity to gather and practice listening feels ever more pertinent in a time wherein suffering is perpetuated by an inability to listen.
Pie Shop Play is directed by Sivan Battat, and will run July 20–29.
delicacy of a puffin heart
Name: Stefani Kuo (Playwright)
My play is about… Female friendship—what it means to form, maintain, navigate, and heal from them. It is a story of a lesbian couple trying to conceive and a pair of roommates navigating cancer; what does it mean to hold a friendship near and dear to heart and yet find dishonesty in it?
Come and see it if you are into… The extraordinary lives of ordinary women.
Other work of mine you may know: Architecture of Rain; Absence: A Solo Performance; Tongue Grafting.
I am really into theatre that is... Not only good but important; theatre that is transformative, and that seeks to bring stories not yet sufficiently told to the stage.
I am a playwright because... I believe theatre can change people, and the community a piece of theatre requires, is how we bring people together to create that change.
And I’m driven to make theatre right now because... Where else is the humanity if not in art?
delicacy of a puffin heart is directed by Theo Maltz and produced by Catherine Woodard, and will run July 25–August 5.
Name: Juliany Taveras (Playwright)
My play is about…Bodegas, laundromats, and hair salons! In other words, about three New York City kids and how their relationships—and their neighborhoods—change over the course of a decade.
Come and see it if you are into… Intergenerational immigrant lovin', the sounds of NYC in the summertime, deliciously punny 12-year-old humor, and theatre made by a team of badass QTPOC.
Other work of mine you may know: The Anatomy of Light
I am really into theatre that is… Magical, truth-telling, and full of questions. I live for work that destabilizes and re-orients—especially when created by those of us described as "marginalized." Whose margins?! Shift that center of gravity, baby!
I am a playwright because... It means I get to be in dialogue with the world and speak truth to power on the page and on the stage. Also, because of the lineage of black feminist writers, women poet-playwrights, and queer women of color performers whose legacies changed my life.
I’m driven to make theatre right now because… Everyone has a role in the (r)evolution—and this is mine.
Desarrollo is directed by Manny Rivera with choreography by Ianne Fields Stewart, and will run July 27–August 5.
Corkscrew Theater Festival will also present free readings of four new plays, presented in semi-staged format at the Paradise Factory: Heart & Soul Yoga Studio Beirut by Olivia Clement, directed by Emilyn Kowaleski; Our House is Haunted by Ankita Raturi, directed by Charlotte Murray; Milk and Gall by Mathilde Dratwa, directed by Jen Wineman, and featuring Carrie Heitman; and Craters, or the making of the making of the moon landing by Elise Wien, directed by Deby Xiadani.
Visit CorkscrewFestival.org for tickets and to learn more.