Sundance Institute Announces 8 Projects For 2012 Theatre Lab (Ken Saro-Wiwa Project Makes The Cut)
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Sundance Institute Announces 8 Projects For 2012 Theatre Lab (Ken Saro-Wiwa Project Makes The Cut)


News on the march! I'm especially eyeing that adaptation of Africa Kills Her Sun by the late Ken Saro-Wiwa (read all about him HERE). Recall Nigerian filmmaker Jeta Amata chaned the title of his oil exploitation thriller Black Gold to Black November – a reference to the month of activist Saro-Wiwa's execution in 1995).

Interestingly, I just learned that the project was also selected for the labs in 2010, with the same group behind it, so I'm not sure what a selection a second time means entirely, other than this may be a second workshop phase of the process.

The full press release below:


New York, NY — Sundance Institute today announced the eight projects selected from nearly 900 submissions to participate in the 2012 Theatre Lab, July 9-29 at the Sundance Resort. Under the supervision of Philip Himberg, Producing Artistic Director, and Associate Director Christopher Hibma, the Lab is the centerpiece of the Theatre Program’s year-round work and is designed to support emerging and established artists and to create a place where their original work can be effectively mentored and challenged.


“The eight projects we’ve selected for 2012 are diverse in every sense,” said Himberg.”We have had the pleasure of discovering the work of writers not known to us prior to this submission process. Our slate includes an NYU undergraduate student, as well as seasoned Sundance Institute alumni that we are welcoming home. Artists hail from Hawaii, New York, Chicago, Nigeria and Tanzania. We look forward to working with these artists to realize their visions for the unique and indelible worlds they seek to create on stage.”


The Theatre Lab provides rehearsal space, dramaturgical support, an acting company, stage management and accommodations/meals for playwrights, directors, choreographers, composers, solo performers and ensembles. The Lab’s unique day-on, day-off rehearsal structure provides Fellows the time to explore revising their work, without the pressure of daily rehearsals, as well as freedom from commercial attention. The three-week residency culminates in a closed presentation of each project for Lab participants, followed by a collaborative feedback session. 


Fellows at the Lab will be supported by a team of advisors and colleagues who provide feedback on the material and process. Dramaturgs for the Lab are: Janice Paran, Artistic Associate; Roberta Levitow, Artistic Associate; Mame Hunt, Artistic Associate; and Jocelyn Clarke (Ireland). Artists in Residence are: Eric Wainaina, composer and bookwriter from Nairobi, Kenya; and Zainabu Wallo, playwright from Ikeja, Nigeria. The eight projects were selected with input from an Advisory Committee including Lydia Diamond, David Henry Hwang, Stephen Wadsworth, Mame Hunt and Janice Paran.


Keri Putnam, Executive Director of Sundance Institute, said, “That four of the eight projects selected are written by artists who participated in the 2011 Sundance Institute Playwrights Retreat at Ucross Foundation is of particular significance to us. We value our relationships with these artists and projects, as well as all of those we support, from development to production.”


Projects for the 2012 Sundance Institute Theatre Lab are:


Africa Kills Her Sun (Tanzania/Kenya) 

An adaptation of Africa Kills Her Sun by Ken Saro-Wiwa 

Mrisho Mpoto, adapter/performer 

Irene Sanga, adapter/performer 

Elidady Msangi, composer 

Gilbert Lukalia, assistant director/performer 

Indhu Rubasingham, director 


Ken Saro-Wiwa (1941-1995) was hanged by the Nigerian dictatorship for his activism on behalf of his Nigerian Ogoni people. The original text is a condemned man’s last letter to his loved one. Mpoto and his team are adapting this text and using his poetic style in Kiswahili to combine it with slam poetry and storytelling to talk about corruption and abuse of power in contemporary Africa. Partnering with UK- based director Rubasingham of the Tricycle Theatre, the team will develop Sundance Institute’s first all- Kiswahili theatre project. Africa Kills Her Sun was previously workshopped at the 2011 Theatre Lab on Manda Island in Kenya as part of the Theatre Program’s charter Lab for East African artists and at the 2011 Theatre Lab at The Banff Centre.



By Branden Jacobs-Jenkins

Director TBD

The Lafayette family patriarch (and compulsive hoarder) is long dead, and it’s time to deal with the deserted and heavily mortgaged Arkansan homestead. When his three adult children descend upon the former plantation to liquidate the estate, a gruesome discovery among his many belongings become just the first in a serious of treacherous surprises. A play about family secrets, memory loss and the art of repression.


A Cage of Fireflies

By Daniel Akiyama

Directed by Phyllis S.K. Look

A Cage of Fireflies (working title) tells the story of three elderly sisters of the kibei generation: sent as children to be raised in Okinawa, then returned to live and work in Hawai‘i. The oldest sister, Yukiko, confines herself and the youngest, Kimiko, to their Honolulu apartment, where they enact the small, private gestures and rituals of daily life and cling to a dream of returning to Okinawa. The middle sister, Mitsuko, has been charged with running their family’s orchid nursery and has inherited the honorific “onēsan” (“older sister”), a title that should by rights belong to Yukiko. As long-hidden hopes, resentments and regrets surface, the sisters are forced to confront the fundamental nature of their love for each other. The play explores the tug-of-war between progress and preservation, the selfish and the selfless.


Fun Home 

Music by Jeanine Tesori │ Book & Lyrics by Lisa Kron

Directed by Sam Gold

Based on the Alison Bechdel book

“My father and I grew up in the same small Pennsylvania town and he was gay and I was gay and he killed himself and I became a lesbian cartoonist.” Fun Home is Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron’s musical adaptation of the acclaimed graphic novel by Alison Bechdel. The title refers to the family business, the Bechdel Funeral Home, and charts Alison’s quest to come to terms with her father’s life and death by painstakingly reconstructing their shared but unspoken bond. 



By Ken Greller

Director TBD

Set in a suburban Baltimore diner, Hands charts the friendship between Alex and Ray over 22 years. As Alex begins the process of gender transition, Ray treads the dangerous waters of a potentially misguided spiritual revelation. The friends grow further apart until their only commonality is a shared disconnect over the town they’re from and can’t seem to escape.


Song for the Disappeared

By Tanya Saracho

Directed by Octavio Solis

Javi Cantu’s been missing for 48 hours. In another time and place, this wouldn’t be cause for concern, but disappearing on the Texas/Mexico Border in this day and age could turn out to be more than dangerous; it could be a tragedy. The Cantus, an affluent and influential Mexican family in Texas, must set aside their differences and heal their schisms if only long enough to discover who or what has caused the family’s only male son’s disappearance. This play follows El Nogalar as Saracho’s second in her Border Trilogy.

Song for the Disappeared is a commission of the Goodman Theatre.



By Lemon Andersen

Directed by Elise Thoron

Willie Green a.k.a. "Dolomite," the famous Folklore hero from the old Black Narratives, is still known as the baddest badass out of San Antone, but he's aged and has been locked up for murder in Attica's D-Block for the last 27 years. Word is brewing throughout Attica that a riot is coming, but Dolomite and his cellmates would rather not get involved until the youngest inmate in D-Block gets a vicious beating by the officers for talking like a liberal about the prison conditions. Does Dolomite join the riots and take vengeance upon the officers for what they did – or lock himself in his cell and hope for a promised parole date and the chance to taste freedom? ToasT is a commission of the Public Theater/UTR.


Useless Bay

By Sarah Treem

In 1971, before domestic violence shelters were part of the cultural landscape, Agnes, the proprietress of a little bed and breakfast in the Pacific Northwest, has been running her own underground railroad of sorts. She helps abused girls escape, recover and move on. At it for 20 years, Agnes thinks she’s seen pretty much all there is to see in the darkness between men and women. She’s not afraid of the victims or their abusers; it’s her boy-crazy teenage daughter, Penny, who terrifies her. So when Mary Anne, a charming new girl with a battered face, arrives, Agnes thinks she’s found the solution. But Mary Anne is not as stable as she seems. And outside, in the distance, the drumbeats of a larger social unrest are beginning to rattle the walls. The play explores the undefined relationship between sex and violence, desire and dependence, feminism and foolery. 

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