Louisville, Start Your Engine!

facebook_-559339403We, the intrepid first two Engine31 journalists, blew into Louisville around 5 p.m. on Thursday and found our Marriott hotel.

Which was not as easy a task as you might think. There are, we quickly discovered, NINE different Marriotts in downtown Louisville.

We got it on the second try.

Of course, all those hotel rooms, Marriotts and non-Marriotts, are not filled entirely with visitors here to see new American plays. More’s the pity. Sports stadiums and office towers and the factory that makes Louisville Slugger bats don’t just monopolize attention here, they also seem to dwarf the relatively unassuming yet sparkling and attractive Actors Theatre of Louisville building.

But step inside the lobby and wander around a bit and you’ll feel as Alice did falling down the rabbit hole. If Alice was a theater geek. And the hole led to one large arena stage, one black box space and one small proscenium. And a massive, multi-part lobby. And a recently upgraded restaurant crafted by a “Wait, didn’t I see you on Iron Chef?!” owner.

Those are the sort of resources that come in very handy when you produce six new works, in full productions, simultaneously.

Plus, on “industry weekends” like this one, there are panel discussions, interview opportunities for journalists and various other tangential gatherings.

And bourbon drinking. Let us not forget bourbon drinking.

The Humana Festival of New American Plays is a grand endeavor. You’re in Louisville, but for the most part you’re really just in that one ATL building, until you need to head back to your hotel or a watering hole.

Hopefully you’ll get a taste of that intensity through Engine 31’s exhaustive coverage of the fest, which begins in earnest tonight. Lou Harry and I are the advance team for this Engine. We met on the first of these new-models-of-arts-journalism projects, Engine 28, in Los Angeles two summers ago. Lou lives a few hours away from Louisville in Indianapolis, Indiana, and has been to Humana regularly for over a decade. Chris is based in New Haven, Connecticut, and visited the festival last year on a whim. It’s a hike for an East Coast critic, but experiencing it once spoiled him.

The Humana Festival of New American Plays is a place you have to seek out amidst the city. But once you find it and step inside, you are overwhelmed and awed. A part of you never leaves.
When all the other parts of us two leave on the final day of March, wait a few days and then brace yourself for a swarm of other Engine 31 journalists, who’ll fly in from all over the U.S on April 5 to complete the job, adding oodles more reviews, features and videos to this site. Most of them hail, as we do, from Engine 28, for which we dashed around Los Angeles writing stories about 2011’s L.A. Radar Festival, Hollywood Fringe Festival Theater Communications Group conference. You can still see that site over at www.engine28.com. (Yes, we know, we went from a .com to a .org. It’s not a typo.)

It is our collective goal to cover the Humana Festival the way it deserves to be covered. To review the plays but also to explain how the productions came to be. To interview stars and directors, but also designers and apprentices and audience members (and maybe even ushers, waiters and the person who makes sure the lobby is cleaned up by the time the doors open).
In short, to make you wish you were with us, while, at the same, enriching the experience of those who are here. We’ll be doing audience engagement experiments, and as you can see elsewhere on this page, we’re aggregating the stories everyone else is doing.

We’ll do everything that’s Humanally possible.

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