Malvern-based People’s Light Launches Groundbreaking Arts Program: The Kiln

People's LightPhoto by Bryan Sheffield

MALVERN, PA — Malvern-based theatre company People’s Light (39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, PA 19355) recently announced the launch of its New Works Lab, The Kiln, an annual program where theatre artists are invited to gather, develop, and showcase works-in-progress. Curated and led by People’s Light Associate Producer and Director of New Works Lisa Portes, six groundbreaking artists will take over the theatre’s Malvern campus from April 4 to 15 as they develop new projects. The Kiln is designed as a production incubator for directors, performers, and multi-faceted artists to work on passion projects and share them with each other and the People’s Light community.

“As the theatre landscape changes and evolves, the field is giving birth to more and more multihyphenate artists,” said Portes. “Yet there are very few developmental opportunities for theatremakers who do not primarily identify as playwrights. In conceiving The Kiln, I wanted to create space for directors and performers, as well as playwrights, to develop their dream projects. We are excited to host director-writers, writer-performers, actor-writers, actor-musicians, choreographers, composers, dramaturgs, and more around the People’s Light campfire.”

In hosting The Kiln, People’s Light seeks to create a home for nationally-recognized theatre artists of diverse artistic, cultural, and generational backgrounds to cultivate their work. Some of these projects are fully scripted and ready for staged presentations, while others are the spark of an idea that the artist will begin to cultivate into its next iteration. This program aims to support these genre-defying theatre artists by creating a space where they can hone their projects in close proximity with their contemporaries.

Participants are invited to stay for a five-day residency spent on the People’s Light campus in dedicated rehearsal spaces. The residency concludes with a series of readings, performances, community conversations, and artist talks for invited guests and subscribers to the People’s Light Spring/Summer Series. The presentations will take place over two weekends – April 7-8 and 14-15. Each project is distinct, so the process of presenting them is tailored to their respective needs.

From April 4 to 8, People’s Light hosts actor and playwright Lisa Ramirez, Panamanian American actress, dancer, and singer-songwriter Daphne Rubin-Vega, and stage director Seema Sueko. Then, from April 10 to 15, The Kiln continues with director, actor, and writer Steve H. Broadnax III, Colombian American stage and film director Estefanía Fadul, and director-playwright Carey Perlof.

The Kiln is interactive; A major component of the program is that all the artists will regularly convene for communal lunches on the People’s Light campus between rehearsals. These lunches act as key points of interaction and potential inspiration between the participating artists as they prepare their work for their weekend sharings. Additionally, audiences are invited to share valuable feedback with the artists that they can use to further the creative journey of their work. All artists, supporting collaborators, and actors are paid a stipend as part of their participation in The Kiln.

“People’s Light is located in such a unique part of Pennsylvania and our country as a whole,” asserts Zak Berkman, Producing Artistic Director at People’s Light. “While The Kiln is a brand new endeavor for People’s Light, it emerges from a decade of significant investment in new work through our innovative New Play Frontiers commission and residency program, and our Harmony Labs of new musical collaborations. The Kiln aims to further establish Malvern as a destination for the development of new theatre making.”

The Kiln fulfills the theatre’s mission of collaborating with ambitious theatremakers from across the country who wish to engage with its distinctive five-county region to tell stories that speak to the Malvern community and the nation. However, it differs from the other new works programs at People’s Light in that it is purely artist-focused and provides a space for creatives to develop their projects outside of the pressures of potential production.

Learn more about the inaugural presentation of The Kiln at People’s Light below.

Inaugural presentations – The Kiln at People’s Light
FUQs | Written by Daphne Rubin-Vega
Friday, April 7, at 7:30 p.m.
The frequently unanswered questions (also known as the FUQs) is an autobiographical riot about death with songs. FUQs is a collection of memoir stories with music.

Song of the Exile | Written and directed by Seema Sueko, adapted from the novel by Kiana Davenport
Saturday, April 8, at 4:30 p.m.
In Song of the Exile, jazz and love propel Keo and Sunny from Honolulu, across Europe and Asia, and into the hysteria and horror of World War II. This epic tale begins in 1930s Hawaii Territory and culminates in the 1960s State of Hawaii. Lives and nations are transformed in this play with music, heartache, revenge, and renewal.

All Fall Down | Written by Lisa Ramirez
Saturday, April 8, at 7:30 p.m.
All Fall Down is a groundbreaking memory play with dance that begins on the day of the funeral of Bobby Vargas, a ballet dancer, and the youngest child and only son of Rose Hanley. Set in the (now abandoned) house they grew up in, two sisters, Jackie and Grace, struggle to maintain their versions of the past and the events that led to this loss. During the course of the play, they confront, in their own ways, the death of their brother, internalized racism, childhood secrets, and the cost of addiction.

Bones | Written and directed by Steve H. Broadnax III
Friday, April 14, at 7:30 p.m.
During a passionate game of dominoes, aka bones, the brahs drink beer, make bets, laugh, and share stories. Then, dominoes fall, revealing unknown truths and challenging ideologies as a mysterious, menacing banging next door that goes bump in the night interrupts. Bones, a horror allegory, investigates masculinity, intimacy, and identity. It questions vulnerability and what it means to be a black man.

The New Latin American Musical Project | Created by Estafanía Fadul in collaboration with Jacinta
Clussellas and Robi Hagar
Saturday, April 15, at 1 p.m.
The New Latin American Musical Project explores the seeds of a new musical grounded in Latin American musical influences across a range of genres, including cumbia, boleros, folk, and more. The creators use family histories, folktales, and mythology as source material, as well as a desire to experiment with aesthetics and form in the creation of a large-scale spectacle event.

Edgardo or White Fire | Written by Carey Perloff
Saturday, April 15, at 7:30 p.m.
A seven-year-old Jewish Italian boy is abducted by the Pope in 1858 and raised to become a priest. Years later, he’s confronted by the Gestapo. Based on a real historical event, Edgardo or White Fire is a play about how the past is always present, as a mother and a son wrestle to find each other again after years of betrayal and loss.

New Work Development at People’s Light
In addition to The Kiln, People’s Light hosts New Play Frontiers (NPF), a long-term initiative to develop and produce new plays that explore our American identity inspired by stories and concerns in our region. Through this residency and commission program, People’s Light invites nationally recognized playwrights to immerse themselves in neighboring communities in collaboration with community partners. As the theatre shepherds the plays from page to stage, they attract new audiences and create an environment that supports dialogue and greater civic engagement.

Since 2013, 11 writers have participated in NPF residencies and received commissions to create new theatre pieces. The opportunity to explore and discover People’s Light and its surrounding neighborhoods and engage with a wide range of community partners provides writers with a distinctive experience, unlike any other new play program in the country. People’s Light NPF playwrights include Steve H. Broadnax III, Eisa Davis, Sanjit De Silva, Colman Domingo, James Ijames, Kate Fodor, Karen Hartman, Dominique Morisseau, Kathryn Petersen, Deepa Purohit, and Laura Schellhardt. The next NPF cohort at People’s Light includes playwrights Lisa Ramirez (The Kiln’s All Fall Down) and Guadalís del Carmen.

In addition to NPF, People’s Light is committed to being a leader in the incubation and production of new music theatre. The initiative emerges from a passion among artists for jazz, folk, rock, and other styles of music, as well as a clear excitement from audiences for productions that feature music as a prominent aspect of its storytelling. Examples of past productions include Lights Out: Nat “King” Cole, Personality: The Lloyd Price Musical, Bayard Rustin Inside Ashland, Such Things As Vampires, a new People’s Light version of A Christmas Carol, and numerous holiday pantos. In addition, new music projects have developed and emerged from the Harmony Labs, where teams of theatremakers, songwriters, and composers explore ideas for innovative new works of music theatre.

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