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Words Cubed to Present Staged Readings of The Value and Horse Thief

Quinn Mattfeld (left), Mauricio Miranda, and Katie Cunningham in Words Cubed, 2019. Photo by Karl Hugh.

Starting August 11 and ending August 26, patrons have the opportunity to attend Words Cubed, the Festival’s new play development program. Plays are submitted through an open process, and the experience provides professional actors, directors, and stage management the chance to work with the playwright in a week-long workshop process.

During this time, playwrights, with the input of their actors and directors, revise their plays daily in preparation for the audience members who attend staged readings at the end of the week. 

The submission process allows playwrights of varying experience from across the country to submit plays on any subject. The writers submit a synopsis of the play, 15-20 contiguous pages of their choosing, and a character description. Interim Artistic Director and Director of New Play Development Derek Charles Livingston and a team of ten others with theatre backgrounds read and consider the submissions, searching for the two perfect fits for the season. 

“Is the play different from what we’ve done before? Does it balance with the plays on our main stages this season? Are the two plays different enough? Can the play have a reasonable development in the time allotted?” Livingston and his team asked questions like these while vetting the 534 submissions received this season. 

After much deliberation, Livingston decided on two new plays with complementary themes: The Value by Nicholas Dunn and Horse Thief by Christine Whitley. 

The Value follows a trio of petty thieves who have just stolen a painting. The plot reveals complicated pasts, wavering loyalty, and the ultimate question––what is the painting worth? Ultimately, the painting seems to reflect their own sense of intrinsic value in a society driven by money and power. For the full synopsis, click here

Nicholas Dunn is an award-winning writer, actor, filmmaker, and teacher based in Salt Lake City. He has had original plays debut at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland and at Wasatch Theatre Company’s Page-to-Stage Festival. His plays have also been presented at Salt Lake Acting Company, Salt Lake School for the Performing Arts, Riot Act Inc, Pittsburgh Playhouse, and the Canadian Play Thing. He has also written and directed several short films and commercials, is a script coordinator for films including HBO’s Mosaic directed by Steven Soderbergh, currently teaches in the University of Utah’s Theatre Department, and is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild.

Elijah Alexander, who is currently playing Timon in Timon of Athens and Tullus Aufidius in Coriolanus at the Festival, directs this reading. The cast includes Dylan J. Fleming, Tim Fullerton, Alex Keiper, James Ryen, and Marco Antonio Vega, who have also all been cast in the 2023 Festival season. The Value will be presented on August 11, 12, 23, and 25 in the Anes Studtio Theatre at 9:30 a.m.

Horse Thief is a modern Western that tells the story of treachery, penitence, and hope. It follows the horse thief Dutch, after robbing Mary’s stable. He shows up looking to make things right. But Mary holds Dutch at gunpoint, determined to discover who was actually behind the robbery. For the full synopsis, click here. 

Christine Whitley is also an award-winning writer and member of the Dramatists Guild. Horse Thief was the winner of the 2017 Playwrights First Competition and finalist for the Jerome Fellowship for Emerging American Playwrights. Another of her works, The Goatwoman of Corvis County, had a world premiere at Shakespeare & Company in Massachusetts. Her play Miles Away was a semifinalist at the O’Neill Playwrights Conference and won the Bloomington Playwrights Project Woodward/Newman Drama Award. 

Assistant Professor of Musical Theatre at Southern Utah University Lisa Quoresimo directs this reading. The cast includes Jasmine Bracey, Nathan Hosner, and Marissa Swanner, actors from the 2023 season. Horse Thief will be presented on August 18, 19, 24, and 26 in the Anes Studtio Theatre at 9:30 a.m.

“I’m very excited about this year’s plays,” Livingston says. “On the surface, they seem very thematically related in that they are both about thievery on some level, but the execution is so different.” 

He explains: “The Value examines three people who steal a painting without knowing its monetary worth and their interaction with a man whose connection to the previously stolen art is priceless. The way tension constantly mounts and the power dynamics shifts among the characters is a revelation on the value placed on inanimate objects and the value these characters place on themselves.” 

Livingston continues: “In Horse Thief, a seemingly repentant horse thief returns, wounded, to make amends to a victim of his ‘profession.’ He’s not expecting to face the gun she holds on him, and she’s not expecting the power he still holds over her. It’s kind of a western-revenge-mystery-love story. Both plays keep you riveted and wondering what will happen next. I can’t wait to have our audiences hear and contribute to these plays.”

Words Cubed tickets are $10 and can be purchased by visiting bard.org or the ticket office onsite, or by calling 800-PLAYTIX.

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