New American Playwright Project – Affluence by Steven Peterson

A highlight of the summer season at the Festival is the New American Playwright Project. Three plays are selected from many submissions. Each playwright spends a week at the Festival and Festival actors and artists present their plays as staged readings, followed by an instructive discussion between the playwright, actors, and audience.

The first play for this season is Affluence, written by Steven Peterson. We chatted with him to learn more.

Peterson was an English major in college and started writing during his early years. After a number of years in the corporate world, he has returned to play-writing full time. Peterson is a two-time winner of the Julie Harris Playwright Award (2013 and 2014) and a winner of the Dorothy Silver Playwriting Competition (2012). He lives in Chicago where he is a resident playwright at Chicago Dramatists and a member of the Dramatists Guild of America.

He characterizes this as a dark comedy. He got the idea for the plot in 2010. At the end of that year, the estate tax law was changing significantly. Folks were joking about “if there’s ever a year for a rich relative to die, this is it.” His thought – “there’s a play in there.”

Tough times have hammered the once-wealthy Woodley clan. Yet the week after Christmas brings hope. Grandmother is dying and will leave them a bundle. Only there's a problem: Inheritance tax rates surge at the stroke of midnight, and the old gal isn't gone yet. What does a desperate family do? And who else is at risk on the slippery slope of murder? It's a dark comedy indeed.

Peterson arrives in Cedar City on Sunday, August 2. During the week, he’ll work with director Frank Honts and the cast of six characters (cast members include John Ahlin (this year’s Falstaff), Michael Doherty (from Charley’s Aunt), Nikki Ellege and Samantha Ma (ensemble members)) to prepare for the public staged readings. You can attend on Friday, August 7 and Saturday, August 8 at 10 am in the Auditorium Theatre. Tickets are $10 and available in advance at www.bard.org or at the door.

His goal for the week? “Theatre is a highly collaborative art. I look forward to the insights from both the director and the actors. For a playwright, it’s only when you see a play performed that you really see what it is. I like to watch the audience during staged readings to see their reactions. The balance between comedy and horror is tough and this will help me see if we’ve achieved it.”

You can learn more about NAPP at http://www.bard.org/napp/ and purchase tickets online at www.bard.org or by calling 800-PLAYTIX. Tickets are $10 and also available at the door. Affluence will be performed as a staged reading on August 7 and August 8 at 10am in the Auditorium Theatre.