The Bridge Initiative: Women+ in Theatre (TBI) offers a virtual series called SAI: Scratching our Artistic Itches. Every Sunday at 1pm, TBI presents a live, one-time-only reading of a unproduced play or a Pulitzer Prize winner. The playwrights are often in attendance and participate in the Q&A that follows. Actors are mostly from the Valley but some live in other parts of the country from Los Angeles to New York. And all participants receive a stipend for their time.
Because of COVID closures, TBI postponed its new play festival scheduled at the end of March, which was underwritten in part through the Tempe City Festival Grant. Tempe's Director of Arts Engagement, Maja Aurora, urged Producing Artistic Director Brenda Jean Foley to redirect festival funding to another endeavor. "It felt like a cloud lifted," says Foley. "Our festival was shuttered but almost the same week, I was empowered to put money into artists' pockets. Bridge is privileged to be in the position where we have no infrastructure and no paid staff so we can to use our bank balance and grant funding from the City of Tempe to least help a few artists pay a bill, as well as give our audience the opportunity to hear exciting new plays. That feels really good right now."
The SAI (pronounced "sigh") series continues through June 14th. The three playwrights and 13 actors contracted for the March festival were all offered roles in SAI; Foley estimates upwards of 80 readers and 11 playwrights will be compensated for their work in the series. True to TBI's mission, more than 50% of these individuals are female-identifying and non-binary. Audience interesting in viewing a reading can send an email to SAI.email@example.com to receive the private Zoom link. For a complete list of play titles and casting, see www.bridgeinit.org/SAI-scratching-our-artistic-itches.
*THE COST OF LIVING, WATER BY THE SPOONFUL, and THE HEIDI CHRONICLES are presented by special arrangement with Dramatists Play Services, Inc., NYC.
April 26 - Hungarian Comedy by Susan Cinoman
Featuring: Brenda Jean Foley, Maren Maclean Mascarelli, Chris Mascarelli, Jai Raja, with Monica Sampson
Synopsis: Out in the country, far outside of Budapest, on a moonlit night, the lonely life of Angala, the farm woman, is turned upside down when a wayward gypsy breaks into her house, seeking revenge and love for himself and his rabbit.
May 3 - Leaving Watermaine by N.N. Ewing
Synopsis: LEAVING WATERMAINE takes us to the not so distant past of “Jim Crow”, 1942, Watermaine. GA, where a middle-class African American family, the Mainlodges, struggle to maintain dignity and family unity where truth unfolds and dreams remain illusive, against the backdrop of con-man suitors, secret abortions, and the mysterious murder of Verdene’s secret lover.
Featuring: Thommi, A'mal, Chanel Bragg, Dayna Donovan, Rapheal Hamilton, Justin Hosten, Charles St. Clair, Dineta Williams-Trigg, with Tippi Hart
May 10 - The Cost of Living* by Martyna Majok
Featuring: Yessi Bastarrachea, Anita Hollander, John Plumpis, Benjamin Shrader, with Susan Xu
Synopsis: Eddie, an unemployed truck driver, reunites with his ex-wife Ani after she suffers a devastating accident. John, a brilliant and witty doctoral student, hires overworked Jess as a caregiver. As their lives intersect, Majok’s play delves into the chasm between abundance and need and explores the space where bodies—abled and disabled—meet each other.
Winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize.
May 17 - Yoga Play by Dipika Guha
** pending rights approval
Featuring: Hira Ismail, Alan Khoutakoun, Shae Kennedy Leonard, Sebastian Kunnappilly, Taylor Moschetti, Omar Mustafa, Avery Volk, with TBA
Synopsis: Yoga Play follows Joan, who has been hired to stabilize Jojomon, a yoga apparel company, after its CEO is embroiled in a fat-shaming scandal. But just as she finds her stride, more trouble surfaces and sales free-fall. Jojomon needs an image makeover—and fast. Joan comes up with a plan so risky and unconventional that it could make or break the company and her career—and what it requires from her colleague, Raj, is far beyond the call of duty. This sharp comedy explores a Type-A personality in a feel-good industry rooted at the intersection of commerce and spirituality.
May 24 - DOUBLE BILL
Just Be & All the Wrong Places by Maybe Stewart
Featuring: Donnie Cianciotto, Rachelle Dart, Gustavo Flores, Kevin Kantor, Mona Lesueur, Shonda Royall, Matt Venrick, with Gretchen Wirges
Synopses: Just Be is an in-depth exploration of gender and sexuality that eschews all theatrical and societal traditions. In this piece, you will take part in Maybe Stewart's journey of self-discovery as portrayed through theatre, movement, and poetry -- and may even come out the other side knowing more about yourself. A short excerpt of this BRAND NEW work will be read. All the Wrong Places is a glimpse into the lives of four young adults struggling to find their place in the world as they come to terms with their identities. They will have to learn when to hold on, when to let go, when to fight, and when to accept the way things are. Featuring identities rarely seen in the spotlight, this piece looks at the many forms humanity can take.
May 31 - The Flora & the Fauna by Alyson Mead
Featuring: Natalie Andrews, Christi Sweeney, with TBA
Synopsis: Ginnie and Adele have been friends for decades, helping each other navigate through life’s twists and turns. But when an inescapable event arises, they’re forced to confront the dark secret of how they met, and deal with forces trying to separate them in a way they never thought possible. The Flora and Fauna is a modern, #MeToo-inflected drama about unconditional love, loss, and the lengths we’d go to for one another. Sometimes in order to move forward, you’ve got to go back.
June 7 - Water by the Spoonful* by Quiara Alegría Hudes
Featuring: Bethany Baca, Connor Wanless, Diego Sutcliffe, Sonia Rodriguez Wood, with Victor Yang, TBA
Synopsis: Somewhere in Philadelphia, Elliot has returned from Iraq and is struggling to find his place in the world. Somewhere in a chat room, recovering addicts keep each other alive, hour by hour, day by day. The boundaries of family and community are stretched across continents and cyberspace as birth families splinter and online families collide. WATER BY THE SPOONFUL is a heartfelt meditation on lives on the brink of redemption. Winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize.
June 14 - The Heidi Chronicles* by Wendy Wasserstein
Featuring: Alaina Beauloye, Amie Bjorklund, Alison Campbell, David Dickinson, Fred Gerle, Marina Blue Jarrette, Chelsea McCasland, Katie McFadzen, E.E. Moe, TBA
Synopsis: Comprised of a series of interrelated scenes, the play traces the coming of age of Heidi Holland, a successful art historian, as she tries to find her bearings in a rapidly changing world. Gradually distancing herself from her friends, she watches them move from the idealism and political radicalism of their college years through militant feminism and, eventually, back to the materialism that they had sought to reject in the first place. Winner of the 1989 Pulitzer Prize.