New Voices, New Viewpoints captures Philly’s diverse theater scene

Playwright Ayad Akhtar, writer of 'The Who and the What.' (Photo courtesy of Theatre Horizon)

Theater can bring people together for the greater good and make the world a more just and more peaceful place. That’s what Theatre Horizon believes, and they’re putting it into action with New Voices, New Viewpoints, which showcases scenes from new plays on August 19 and 20.

The plays represent a diversity of thought and an exploration of identity in America. Audience viewpoints are welcome, too, after each show. People can share their opinions with theater staff and the artists, and based on audience feedback, some of the shows may be produced at the theater in the future.

Writers and directors

The featured works are: The Who and the What by Ayad Akhtar (winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play Disgraced), about a Pakistani-American writer; The Ashes Under Gait City by New Dramatists resident playwright Christina Anderson, about a man trying to get forgotten black people to return to a rebuilt city; You Got Older by Clare Barron (another New Dramatists resident), about a woman dealing with her own struggles and her dad’s illness; and Wolves Eat Elk by current InterAct Theatre Company Core Playwright Program participant MJ Kaufman, about the surreal Elk Kingdom and an attempt to tame a wolf threatening their herd.

Four local directors picked scenes from contemporary plays that excited them: Dawn Loveland Navarro, William Steinberger, Rebecca May Flowers, and Jack Tamburri. They're directing the pieces they chose. None of these plays has been produced in Philadelphia before.

"Great conversations starters"

“The impetus is Theatre Horizon’s commitment to being a place where a racially and economically mixed audience can come together to dialogue about critical issues of race and class in our nation,” said Erin Reilly, artistic director and founder. “Happily, American playwrights are currently churning out a wealth of exciting plays that address these issues, and create great conversation starters for Theatre Horizon’s Montgomery County community. And we are blessed in the Philadelphia region to have gifted theater actors of every creed and color.”

In addition to wanting to spark conversations, Theatre Horizon wants to make theater more accessible, so the shows are “pay what you decide.”

“We want to encourage more people to come and see unique and conversation-generating works at Theatre Horizon more often,” she said. “‘Pay what you decide’ not only allows you to pay what you can afford rather than a fixed ticket price, but also removes the financial risk of buying a ticket for a show in advance without knowing whether or not you will enjoy it.”

She hopes that people will enjoy the shows, though, and the diversity the theater embraces in the performances and performers (half of the artists involved in the project are people of color, she said).

“We are fiercely committed to representing the true diversity of voices in our community,” she said, “in order to create safe spaces where people can come together to examine and celebrate our differences.”

Theatre Horizon’s New Voices, New Viewpoints is coming for two performances on August 19 and 20 at 8pm at 401 DeKalb Street, Norristown, PA. Each night ends with a complimentary drink for audience members and a chance to talk with the artists involved. You can reserve your seats in advance here