10:52PM

Promising Developments at ASF's Southern Writers Project

A trio of promising works resulted in a stimulating Festival of New Plays for the Southern Writers’ Project the weekend of May 16. Showing patience, Alabama Shakespeare Festival officials offered revised readings of the latest versions of two plays unveiled in 2009. Both Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder’s “The Flagmaker of Market Street” and Jeffry Chastang’s “Blood Divided” are already booked for full productions next year.

The two works reflect ASF’s renewed focus on regional content, drawing stories from local history that have universal relevance. Next year’s full stagings will form the centerpiece of a Civil War 150th anniversary observance. Wilder already has earned a national profile with “Gee’s Bend” (an earlier ASF debut and winner of ATCA’s 2008 M. Elizabeth Osborn Award), and her streamlined “Flagmaker” should further her hot reputation.

Chastang is an up-and-coming talent — his “Preparations” two years ago provided a warm, evocative comic slice of life — who goes in a new direction with “Blood Divided,” which originally had been titled “A Wide Panorama.”

Audience response also proved strong for “Look Away,” a Robert Ford reading that, like the other works, explores social and racial issues through a historical prism. Development slates tend to be cyclical. It’s rare to see three titles at once that could hit the national circuit.

Jonathan Levine, Pittsfield Gazette