Since 2006, the Aurora Theatre Company in Berkeley has been hosting its annual Global Age Project, in which a jury of local directors chooses new plays to be read on successive Monday nights. The four new works for 2010 were selected from a pool of 200 submissions and features the return, for a second year in a row, of Chicago playwright Joel Drake Johnson, whose 2009 GAP submission, "The First Grade" is running concurrently at Aurora through February 28, 2010. As in years past, attendance to Global Age Project readings is free on a first-come, first-served basis.
The goal of "GAP," as conceived by Aurora artistic director Tom Ross, is to highlight new works that address issues in the global age, including the changing nature of human relationships. To that end, this year's first reading, on February 1 at 7:30pm, is Johnson's A Guide for the Perplexed. Directed by Matthew Graham Smith, Perplexed explores the role gender plays in a hastily created household of three men -- an ex-con, his off-the-charts-smart gay nephew, and the ex-con's nervous brother-in-law.
Also in the lineup is Bekah Brunstetter's provocatively titled Miss Lily Gets Boned on February 15 and Allison Moore's Collapse on February 22, both at 7:30pm. These are accomplished playwrights all: Johnson's Perplexed is set to premiere at Victory Gardens in Chicago after its reading here, Brunstetter is currently working on a commission for New York's Roundabout Underground and Moore is readying an adaptation of Willa Cather's My Antonia for the Illusion Theater in Minneapolis.
Into this fine company steps San Francisco's Garret Jon Groenveld, whose The Serving Class will be read on February 8 at 7:30pm. Directed by Margo Hall and starring Liam Vincent as Buddy Beauchamps, The Serving Class is a comedy about a gay love triangle set against the backdrop of a high-society marriage. "The play actually has a very local connection," Groenveld says. "It was commissioned in 2007 by PlayGround and rewritten for a public reading in 2008."
The story focuses in large part on the indispensability of the gay community (interior decorators, florists, photographers) to the local marriage industry. "Without gay men," Groenveld quips, "the super-wealthy could never pull off a wedding, and yet gay men can never marry." It may sound like a message play, but Groenveld is quite comfortable with The Serving Class as a comedy. "Comedy is just tragedy sped up," he says, paraphrasing a famous quote, adding, "There's a high joke-per-page ratio."
Groenveld knows he's the odd man out at this year's GAP. "It's super-rare," he says, "to get picked for a festival with a comedy." But with two high-powered attorneys, once bitter adversaries, arguing in Federal Court on behalf of gay marriage as the reading is being rehearsed, Groenveld also knows that his subject matter is not just a fast-paced string of gags. "I'm hoping it will become anachronistic so I can rewrite it again," he says.
The 2010 Global Age Project runs through February 22, 2010 at the Aurora Theatre Company in Berkeley. For tickets and information, visit auroratheatre.org.