The second annual Sheen Center Theater Festival of Catholic Playwrights opens Thursday, June 21, at 7 p.m., with performances by four prominent Catholic theater companies in New York City, including Turn to Flesh, Xavier, Magis and Storm. Opening night will feature readings from their current projects followed by a discussion with the companies’ artistic directors about the importance of theater with a Catholic vision being represented on the New York stage.
The festival runs at the Sheen Center for Thought & Culture, 18 Bleecker St. in lower Manhattan, Thursday, June 21, to Sunday, June 24, with staged performances by Catholic playwrights telling stories that speak to our times.
This year’s full-length plays showcase a range of artistic voices under the direction of Melissa Crespo, Kathy Gail MacGowan and Chris Rivera. Friday’s staged reading of Matt Barbot’s “El Coqui Espectacular and the Bottle of Doom” follows the creative journey of a young, Nuyorican comic book artist whose exploration of heritage and identity take on new dimensions when life begins to imitate art. Saturday brings to the stage “The December Man” by Colleen Murphy, about a Montreal family struggling with grief in the aftermath of suicide and public gun violence. On Sunday, the festival closes with “The Merry Widows of Windsor” by Emily C.A. Snyder, a Shakespearean adaptation featuring two widows testing their freedoms and limitations. The selected plays explore the beauty of the human experience in life’s broken and redemptive moments. Admission is free; RSVP is required at https://sheencenter.org/shows/festival/.
The festival schedule follows:
Thursday, June 21, at 7 p.m.:
Festival Opening – Showcase of Catholic Theatre Companies and Conversation with Artistic Directors. Opening night features some of the most prominent Catholic theatre companies in New York City, including Turn to Flesh, Xavier, Magis and Storm, as they showcase excerpts from current shows and talk about the importance of theatre with a Catholic vision. The showcase and talkback will be followed by a reception.
Friday, June 22, at 7 p.m.:
Staged Reading – “El Coquí Espectacular and the Bottle of Doom,” by Matt Barbot and directed by Melissa Crespo, examines ways in which we define our heritage and ourselves. Alex, a comic book artist whose ideas might be “too Puerto Rican,” has begun secretly dressing up as his creation, El Coquí Espectacular, defender of Nuyoricans in the five boroughs. When his brother Joe is fired from a project for not being Puerto Rican enough, the two, with the help of a photographer, hatch a plan to debut El Coquí at the Puerto Rican Day Parade and prove themselves to the world. A Q&A with the participating artists will follow the reading.
Saturday, June 23, at 7 p.m.:
Staged Reading – “The December Man,” by Colleen Murphy and directed by Kathy Gail MacGowan, follows the tale of Jean Fournier, a young man coping with grief and regret after fleeing the massacre at L’École Polytechnique de Montréal in 1989. By exploring the aftermath of the tragic event, the play forces the question: What would we have done had we found ourselves in Jean’s situation? The searing drama about courage, heroism and despair explores the long private shadow that public violence casts. A Q&A with the participating artists will follow the reading.
Sunday, June 24, at 2 p.m.:
Staged Reading – “The Merry Widows of Windsor,” by Emily C.A. Snyder and directed by Chris Rivera. Shakespeare’s “Merry Wives” have become Snyder’s “Merry Widows” in this hilarious sequel with a feminist edge. Alice Ford and Margaret Page find themselves newly autonomous. While Alice embraces the possibilities the world has to offer, Margaret continues to mourn the loss of her husband. When news comes that the bastard son of Henry V might be in the town, Alice is told it is her duty to seduce the young man to keep him, and his wealth, near. Except, it seems her husband, Francis Ford, isn’t quite as dead as everyone thought he was. A Q&A with the participating artists will follow the reading.