As one of the best repertory theaters in the nation, A Noise Within has devoted more than 25 years to presenting elaborate and inventive productions of classic plays ranging from the best of Shakespeare to “Man of La Mancha” and the farce “Noises Off.” This weekend, they will be spotlighting several of the plays they are considering for the future by hosting staged readings of several shows in the InVision festival from Friday through Sunday.
ANW is teaming up with some of the top ethnic theaters in the Los Angeles area to ensure a spirit of diversity and inclusion, following the initial festival in 2016. The packed schedule will begin with a happy hour at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the ANW lobby, followed by two staged readings at 8 p.m.: Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ “Appropriate” by ANW and Anton Chekhov’s “The Sinner from Toledo” performed by the Latino Theatre Company.
Saturday will feature “Eduardo Machado’s “Broken Eggs” at 2 p.m. and a second reading of “Appropriate” at 5 p.m., with a special dinner under the front lawn tent running from 5 p.m. and lasting long enough for “Appropriate” attendees to enjoy the meal. The evening will end with the first readings of Amiri Baraka’s “Dutchman” and Douglas Turner Ward’s “Day of Absence” performed by Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble in the Lawrence Hall rehearsal room and Philip Dawkins’ “Le Switch” by ANW at mainstage at 8 p.m.
Sunday will see ANW produce a reading of Lauren Gunderson’s “The Book of Will” at 2 p.m., while Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble will perform second readings of “Dutchman” and “Day of Absence” at 5 p.m. before a final dinner under the front lawn tent from 5:30 p.m. The fest closes out with the East West Players of Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s “Snow in Midsummer” at 7:30 p.m.
“The main thing is that a festival like this creates a conversation,” says festival co-organizer and ANW resident artist Deborah Strang. “The last theme was ‘American Dream,’ so all the shows were American plays and the discussions were about the playwrights, the plays and how they related to one another.
“This year’s is a vision of the world where we all live together in all communities — whatever race, gender or age,” she adds. “All of them deal with that sort of conversation. Everybody is welcome to come, and the discussions after the shows will have people of different backgrounds sitting down and speaking with one another. Our patrons from the first fest asked when are you going to do this again? So we know the anticipation for this is great.”
Another key figure in the fest is Kinan Valdez, a 25-year ensemble member of El Teatro Campesino who will be directing the LTC’s production of “The Sinner from Toledo.” The play asks the question: If you were forced to choose between the love of your life and absolution for your sins, what would you do? Would you save your soul or the soul of the one you love the most?
“It’s essentially an adaptation by Oliver Mayer of the Chekhov short story, and it’s a little-known short story that he thought would be excellent source material and it has relevance in this day and age,” says Valdez. “It takes place in the time of the Spanish Inqusition, which lasted quite a few centuries.
“It was a time when Spain had completely managed to finish new conquests and reclaimed national territories, then forcibly removing Muslims and Jewish populations and making them convert,” continues Valdez. “In this day and age, there’s this spread of reactionary impulses. It’s a piece that reflects that, and that’s the power of theater.”
The InVision Festival takes place from 6:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday night at A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena. Admission to each reading is free, with the dinners costing $25 per person. VIP passes guaranteeing seating at all eight shows and the two dinners are $150. Call (626) 356-3100 or visit anoisewithin.org.