Given Nashville’s penchant for pouring out new songs each day, it’s no surprise that the region is ripe with wordsmiths working in the many other disciplines that require putting pen to paper. Songwriters have writers’ nights, of course, and poets and prose writers are finding an increasing number of open mics and storytelling events to ply their trade. Playwrights, on the other hand, need stages and actors to try out new material. Nashville has a few options. The Nashville Repertory Theatre’s esteemed Ingram New Works Festival gives nationally-recognized professional playwrights a chance to see their work read on stage by some of Nashville’s finest actors. The biannual Ten Minute Playhouse gives more than a dozen professional and emerging playwrights the opportunity to try new work that sometimes becomes the seed for longer plays. The 10-year-old Shades of Black Festival, presented by Destiny Theatre Experience, Dream 7 and Sistah Style, has consistently featured new works. There are also opportunities with Actors Bridge’s Sideshow Fringe Festival and Tennessee Women’s Theater Project’s Women’s Work, among others. There is, however, always a need for more opportunities. The new Tennessee Playwright Festival, running August 26 – September 11 at Lakewood Theatre Company (2211 Old Hickory Blvd. Old Hickory TN 37138) hopes to fill that gap.
The inaugural festival—Lakewood board secretary Lisa Link says she hopes it will become an annual event—will feature four regional and emerging playwrights presenting new works. Each will be staged three times over the course of the festival, with Friday and Saturday shows at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m. Individual tickets are $10. Full festival passes for all three plays are $20 and are available now.
The Lakewood Theatre Company is a nonprofit organization which has served the Old Hickory, Hermitage, Lakewood and Greater Nashville communities for over 35 years.
Playwright bios and a synopsis of each play, submitted by the festival, are below.
The Further Adventures of Cootie Simone ‘Atlanta’ by MJ Stephens
Aug. 28, Sept. 2 and Sept. 10
In this Gothic screwball comedy set in Atlanta in 1939, the plan is to marry off Suellen’s sister, Cootie, to a New York reporter who’s come down to report on the opening of Gone With the Wind. Marrying her off is difficult enough, but after a severe bump on the head which sends her back to Tara, the evening quickly turns hilariously complicated.
M.J. Stephens has been writing plays and directing since she was nine years old, when she terrorized the other kids in her neighborhood by assigning them parts in her ‘plays’, telling them what to say and do and forcing them to perform for any of the parents that she could drag into her backyard. By 2004 she got serious and her first play, Fairy Tale Confidential was produced by the Nashville Theatre Company and was held over for a third weekend. Since then she has had nine of her plays produced in and around the Nashville area, from The Thomas House Hotel in Red Boiling Springs to Groundworks Theatre on Charlotte Avenue. Her plays run the gamut from the existence of God in The Reason for If to Southern Gothic Comedy in Daddy Went Home for Christmas to Lakewood Theatre’s offering of The Further Adventures of Cootie Simone – Atlanta. That said, she has no particular style. She has written one novel, Never Really Alone, available on Amazon and is currently searching for a publisher for her second novel, titled The Last Chance. She lives with her husband, Jonathan in Hermitage, Tennessee and blames her happiness on him.
The Flaming Princess by Watermelon ICE
Aug. 26, Sept. 3 and Sept. 11
When Mario Mincemeat is asked to deliver a strange package, he soon learns that the delivery is for the Princess of the Kingdom of Flames and Flamboyance! He is excited to meet a Princess for the first time, but his excitement is short-lived as he soon discovers that Princess Fuerther is a man! The play shows a world where everything is NOT what is seems – can love exist? Come and find out in this absurdly funny modern take on gender, marriage, and social expectations. This will be staged reading.
Watermelon ICE is the pen name for a teenager who loves to write but doesn’t like to talk much about herself. She’s not sure exactly how much she’s written, but she has so many ideas that if she ran out of ideas today, she says she could keep writing for years. She’s had two blog stories published but The Flaming Princess is her first play to be performed on stage. While she sometimes acts out her stories, she has never performed on stage. Her biggest hope is that someday, somebody will be touched by one of her works the way she has been touched by others’ writings.
Blue Sheets by Andrea Coleman and A Capitol Offense (A Political Ghost Story) by Blake Fontenay|\ Two One-Act Plays
Aug. 27, Sept. 4 and Sept. 9
Blue Sheets: Elizabeth Anne Matthews thought her life was finally coming together. She had just been hired on as head of advertising for a major company while working toward a degree in psychology, all with the love and support of her boyfriend, Casey. In one powerful moment, though, as quickly as a gun releases a bullet, her life was frozen cold in its tracks and she will find that simply living with herself is the most difficult thing she will ever do. Blue Sheets is a haunting realization of how one choice in one instant can change everything- what you do, where you go, what you think about… It can even change the very definition of who you are.
A Capitol Offense (A Political Ghost Story): Shelli has it all: Brains, beauty and blind ambition. The country music superstar has just gotten herself elected governor of Tennessee. But she’s not content to stop there. She’s willing to mow down anyone who stands in her way. Nothing on Earth can stop her…but there are a couple of ghosts haunting the state Capitol who might teach her a lesson or two.
By day, Andrea Coleman masquerades in the streets of Nashville as an average 20-something bank teller. However, by night, she trades in her cold tuppence for the fire that comes alive in her soul under the warm stage lights. After graduating from Austin Peay in 2013 with a BA in Theatre Performance, Andrea worked for the mouse at the most magical place on Earth, then returned home to good ole Rocky Top where she found a home on the stages of Nashville. This is the world debut of Blue Sheets and Andrea’s first fully realized theatrical piece with many more nipping at its’ heels awaiting completion. She would like to thank her Heavenly Father for blessing her with the means to make her art, Lakewood for believing in and sharing her vision, and the audience for taking this journey with her. May your conscience stay clear and your ending be happy.
Blake Fontenay is the author of two novels, The Politics of Barbecue and Scouts’ Honor, and a short story, “The Coal Torpedo,” which was published in the Cold Blooded: Killer Nashville Noir anthology. He also writes poetry for East Nashville’s Tomato Art Festival. After more than 20 years as a newspaper reporter, editorial writer and columnist, he currently works in communications for Tennessee state government. A Nashville native, he wrote and acted in skits for the Memphis Gridiron Show for 10 years, but A Capitol Offense is his first full-length play.