Sunday, September 25, 2011

Steven's New Play Lights Up Hanover Tavern

Posted by Bruce Miller
Becky's New Car is the 39th play from 53-year-old American playwright Steven Dietz. When I posted this in the middle of last night, I said that I "thought" this was the first of his works to be produced professionally in Central Virginia. Never trust the memory of a 61-year old, particularly in the wee hours. I've now learned from two commenters (thank you both) that Triangle Players produced Lonely Planet by Dietz, Firehouse produced Private Eyes, and Henrico Theatre Company produced More Fun Than Bowling--all several years ago. Also, as I originally wrote, when VCU produced Dracula a few seasons back, they may well have performed Dietz's popular adaptation.

What I should have said is ... this is Barksdale's first Dietz, and all we can add is "it's about time." In 2010, Dietz was once again named one of the most produced playwrights in the nation. Excluding Shakespeare, Dietz tied with Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee as the eighth most produced playwright in America.

Dietz is married to TYA (theatre for young audiences) playwright Allison Gregory, and the couple split their time between Texas, where Dietz teaches playwriting and directing at the University of Texas at Austin, and Seattle (the setting for Becky's New Car).

Dietz has never had significant success in New York; he has never been produced on Broadway. But his most popular plays (More Fun Than Bowling [1986], God's Country [1988], Lonely Planet [1993], Private Eyes [1996], Dracula [1996], Rocket Man [1998], Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure [2006], and now Becky's New Car [2008]) have become staples in regional, university, and community theatres.

If I were a bettin' man (I've never even bought a lottery ticket), I'd wager that Becky's New Car will shortly become Dietz's most popular play ever, if it hasn't already.

Born and raised in Denver, Colorado, Dietz began his career as a director of new plays at The Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis. While simultaneously serving as artistic director of his own small company, Quicksilver Stage, he began writing his own work. In the late '80s, A Contemporary Theatre in Seattle (now known as ACT Theatre) commissioned Dietz to write God's Country. Dietz moved to Seattle while working on that production, and lived there permanently from 1991 to 2006.

His work has been recognized with the PEN U.S.A. Award in Drama for Lonely Planet, the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays Award (Fiction and Still Life with Iris), and the 2007 Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Mystery for Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure. Two of his plays (Last of the Boys and Becky's New Car) received Best of the Year recognition from the American Theatre Critics Association.

Dietz is a frequent contributor to American Theatre Magazine. Currently he is working on 360 (round dance) - an adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler's 1900 play, La Ronde.

Being tied with Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee for the eighth most produced playwright in America in 2010 is an amazing feat. If you want to see what all the fuss is about, I hope you'll join us for Becky's New Car, starring Melissa Johnston Price, David Bridgewater and Gordon Bass, directed by Billy Christopher Maupin, now playing at Barksdale Theatre at Hanover Tavern.

--Bruce Miller


Anonymous said...

Hi Bruce,
Just to let you know - RTP produced "Lonely Planet" in '99 with the amazing talents of Ted Boelt and Steve Earle.

Thespis' Little Helper said...

LONELY PLANET was my first Dietz discovery following DRACULA, I think. His most recently published work, YANKEE TAVERN, is STELLAR! And VCU did indeed perform Dietz' adaptation of DRACULA.

(And he's a very nice guy, judging from his response when I sent him an enthusiastic "fan letter" about directing BECKY'S NEW CAR.)

Stephen Ryan and Justin Dray also did a production of LONELY PLANET in 1999...

Thespis' Little Helper said...

at VCU's Shafer Street theatre.

Anonymous said...

And Henrico Theatre Company produced More Fun Than Bowling probably a decade ago, and Firehouse did a production of Private Eyes.