Announcing ACT - A Contemporary Theatre's New Play Award: Red Earth, Gold Gate, Shadow Sky by Mark Jenkins is the recipient for 2013. ACT has also committed to producing the play in the 2014 Mainstage season. Jenkins' play is a harrowing tale of a Cambodian family who lives through the American bombing of Southeast Asia, survives the horrors of the killing fields and the brutal Khmer Rouge regime, struggles to adapt as immigrants in modern Seattle, and has to fight for a place in America where incarceration and deportation are a constant threat.
Now in its eighth year, the ACT New Play Award is sponsored by Gian-Carlo and Eulalie Scandiuzzi. The winner receives $2,500 and the opportunity to workshop their play at ACT. Two FREE staged readings will be presented in ACT's Bullitt Cabaret in July, 2013. ACT's artistic leadership team unanimously approved the selection of Red Earth, Gold Gate, Shadow Sky. Artistic Director Kurt Beattie says, "We've been watching Mark's progress on this play for some time and I find myself more interested and engaged in the piece each time I revisit it. After our experience with Ramayana and Uncle Ho to Uncle Sam this past year, we are compelled to continue the conversation about our community and how we connect and understand one another. By workshopping Red Earth prior to producing it in 2014 we will be able to get a jump start on understanding where we need to go to fully explore this important subject."
Jenkins, a University of Washington professor and former head of the Professional Actors Training Program, has spent years working with Seattle's Cambodian community (also referred to as the Khmer community) to gather material from interviews, workshops, oral histories, photographs, religious studies, Khmer history and mythology, and by travelling to present day Cambodia to talk to those who left America to return to their homeland. The story is fiction but is based on research, conversations and other encounters with a number of refugees and "returnees."
"As a white, middle class American I am acutely aware of my presumption to depict a complex culture, one I am only 'visiting,'" says Jenkins. "I know my role is that of a facilitator rather than as an authentic representative of a story that belongs to the Khmer-American community. With that in mind, I have sought and received advice, corrections and the endorsement of several leaders in the Khmer community."
In the years of researching and developing Red Earth, Mark Jenkins has garnered an impressive group of collaborators. Artists and academics who have contributed to this project include director Victor Pappas, activist and artist Don Fels, Khmer scholar and community leader Boreth Ly, nationally renowned scenic designer and UW professor Thomas Lynch, and Khmer-American artist and sculptor Sopheap Pich, whom he met when travelling to Phnom Penh in 2008.
Performance dates for the 2013 staged reading at ACT and the Mainstage production in 2014 are to be determined.
Past ACT New Play Award recipients include
· Angus MacLachlan's Abundant Acreage Available, 2012
· Emily Schwend's South of Settling, 2011
· David Weiner's Extraordinary Chambers,2010
· Zakiyyah Alexander's Sweet Maladies, 2009
· Yussef El Guindi's Language Rooms, 2008
· Laura Schellhardt's The K of D, 2006
· Elizabeth Heffron's Mitzi's Abortion, 2005