Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks' reputation could rest on a single work, Top Dog/Underdog, her Pulitzer-winning drama of sibling rivalry, race, three-card monte and Abraham Lincoln, produced by the Alliance Theatre in 2004. Instead, the writer is raising her profile with multiple world premieres -- 365 of them, to be exact -- through the national festival 365 Days/365 Plays.
Beginning Nov. 13, 2002, Parks wrote a play a day for a full year as a writing exercise. The individual scripts tend to be one to five pages (some, such as "All Ears," could fit on a Post-It note) and encompass everything from the war in Iraq to Zen-like spiritual exercises. After she finished in November of 2003, director/producer Bonnie Metzgar suggested staging Parks' work, and the concept snowballed until it encompassed a year-long series of world premieres involving more than 600 theaters and 14 cities, including Atlanta.
Locally, 365 Days/365 Plays started on Nov. 13, 2006, at Alliance Theatre, Atlanta's "hub" theater for coordinating the festival, and it'll finish a year later at Actor's Express. Participating theaters range from local institutions such as 7 Stages to lesser-known groups such as Lov'n It Live restaurant.
Most companies opt to stage all seven of each week's shows in a single performance. For the current week, Studio Zero Productions, a group of artists led by 365 Plays Atlanta administrator Danielle Mindess, will stage the latest batch at the Granite Room Gallery in Castleberry Hill. Studio Zero will present the "Week 7" plays at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 31, and the "Week 8" works at the same time Jan. 1. Visual arts inspired by the plays will be exhibited in the space as well.
Alliance Theatre dramaturg Celise Kalke says each city has a different approach to staging 365 Plays/365 Days: "Atlanta is one of the few networks to collaborate with the cities' universities. The co-hub with the Alliance is the Playwriting Center of Theater Emory."
Lisa Paulsen, director of Emory's Playwriting Center, compares 365 Plays/365 Days to a torch relay, with one company passing the responsibility to the next: "I'm really looking forward to seeing theater in an art gallery, at MARTA stations in February, read in front of the AIDS quilt at the Inman Park Festival, and more. It's going to be like a year-long alternative tour of the city."
365 Plays/365 Days is the kind of stunt you can't imagine being executed without the Internet, and in fact, you can read Parks' play of the day at www.tcg.org/publications/365 /playoftheday.cfm.
365 Days/365 Plays. Through Nov. 12, 2007. Free. Venues and performance times change weekly. 404-727-8935. www.365days365plays.com.
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