Sunday, November 30, 2003

Playwright offers his 'Booth'

By Jackie Demaline
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Double Obie Award-winner W. David Hancock is wrapping up his fall playwriting residency at University of Cincinnati (under the banner of the Helen Weinberger Center for the Study of Drama and Playwriting) with a free staged reading of his unproduced Booth at 8 p.m. Thursday in College-Conservatory of Music's Master Classroom, 3250 Mary Emery Hall.

The "booth" of the title, says Weinberger Center's new director Jonathan Kamholtz, is at a Denny's in Las Vegas. The three characters, one of whom is a transsexual, "are hustlers of various sorts discussing a variety of possible jobs they might pull."

Hancock's two Obies were for The Convention of Cartography (1995) and The Race of the Ark Tattoo (1999). The Village Voice proclaimed him the most "audacious and provocative playwright of the '90s." He's been teaching a playwriting course at UC since the beginning of November.

"On the face of it," says Kamholtz, Booth is not as audacious or provocative as the plays for which Hancock won Obies; there's certainly something more conventional and recognizable about the set-up.

"But Booth has a wonderful way of shifting - sometimes rather abruptly - between a naturalistic mode and a hallucinatory one. It opens up to let in dreams, visions and prophecies."

Kamholtz says his goal as Weinberger Center director is "to use the resources ... to help place drama more at the heart of the curriculum at UC. I hope to schedule events that bring together playwrights, scholars, critics and other members of the drama community to discuss work currently being performed from a variety of perspectives.

"I want our students (and my colleagues) to see more about the ways that drama has of addressing the curricular issues we hold to be most important. I want also to help our students discover the playwright within them. I want to showcase the way that drama is in conversation with the sorts of issues that attract contemporary poets and novelists.

"Overall, I want to make the Weinberger Center an area of distinction ... that can help attract students, faculty, artists and the community to UC's English Department and CCM's Drama program."

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