Much like an Oscar category, they're five highly coveted slots that come once a year.
The Pacific Playwrights Festival at South Coast Repertory, which takes place every spring, annually presents five staged readings of plays in addition to its two full productions. (Noah Haidle's "Smokefall" and Beau Willimon's "The Parisian Woman," both playing this weekend, are the full offerings.) The staged readings, which feature actors without costumes or props and sometimes with scripts in hand, spotlight playwrights who run the gamut from newcomers to veterans with distinguished lineage.
"The reason we picked them is the same for all of them," John Glore, the festival's co-director, said about this year's group of scripts. "We liked the plays. We read throughout the year with an eye for programming the Pacific Playwrights Festival, and when we see a play we get excited about, we set it aside."
The festival has brought good luck in the past. David Lindsay-Abaire's "Rabbit Hole," which went on to win the Pulitzer Prize and be made into an Oscar-nominated film, debuted as a staged reading in 2005. This kind of success suggests that audience members who attend this year's lineup may also witness a classic in the making.
Future classics or not, though, it's bound to be an interesting weekend. Here's this year's staged-reading lineup for the festival:
"Trudy and Max in Love (or That Forever Feeling)"
Author: Zoe Kazan
Director: Lila Neugebauer
What it's about: Two New Yorkers fall into an extramarital affair.
Back story: Kazan has top-notch theater pedigree; her grandfather was Oscar-winning director Elia Kazan, and her mother, Robin Swicord, was commissioned by South Coast Repertory two decades ago. The theater commissioned Kazan as well two years ago. Glore noted this isn't a guarantee that a play will get accepted, but "Trudy" turned out to be a winner.
Show time: 1 p.m. Friday on the Julianne Argyros Stage
"Hope and Gravity"
Author: Michael Hollinger
Director: Aaron Posner
What it's about: Ten disparate lives intersect in an elevator accident.
Back story: Hollinger debuted the first version of the play in NewSCRipts, the theater's annual play reading series, in October. According to Glore, the audience was "quite taken," and Hollinger submitted a revised version for the Pacific Playwrights Festival.
Show time: 3:30 p.m. Friday on the Segerstrom Stage