Arts

Women, Tech, Visionaries Dominate Essential Theatre Festival

Essential Theatre artistic director Peter Hardy, director Ellen McQueen and actor Dan Triandiflou are taking part in the theater’s annual festival and continuing the tradition of showcasing new works by Georgia playwrights.
Essential Theatre artistic director Peter Hardy, director Ellen McQueen and actor Dan Triandiflou are taking part in the theater’s annual festival and continuing the tradition of showcasing new works by Georgia playwrights.
Credit Myke Johns / WABE

The Essential Theatre is continuing its tradition of premiering the best new works by Georgia playwrights. Its 19th annual festival begins Friday at the West End Performing Arts Center and runs through Aug. 27.

This year’s festival features full productions of work by playwright Lauren Gunderson and a world premiere of a play by G.M. Lupo.

Lupo’s “Another Mother” deals with a young woman discovering that she was born from donated eggs and had no biological connection with her recently deceased mother.

Gunderson’s play also deals with women and technology, but from a vastly different angle. “Ada and the Memory Machine” is the story of Ada Lovelace, daughter of poet Lord Byron and mentee of 19th century inventor Charles Babbage.

“Babbage was the one who invented the first computer,” explains the show’s director Ellen McQueen. “But Ada had the vision of what a computer could be. Babbage was thinking about the math and Ada saw that if it could work with numbers, it could work with any symbols; it could write music. She saw what we have now, what we have in our pockets. She was a visionary genius.”

Not wanting for portrayals of visionaries, this year’s festival also includes a presentation of the one-man show “Independent,” starring Atlanta actor Dan Triandiflou as maverick director John Cassavetes.

In addition, Essential has partnered with Working Title Playwrights for the Bare Essentials Reading Series, which is presenting staged readings of three new works by playwrights Paul Donnelly, Liz Dooley and Lee Raines.

“A good number of the plays we’ve premiered have gone on to further productions,” says artistic director Peter Hardy. “We’ve given opportunities to a lot of very talented people who have gone on to have very successful careers.”