Playwright takes on world of air guitar in ‘Airness’ | Louisville Courier-Journal

by , @arts_bureau

CJ’s Elizabeth Kramer talks with Chelsea Marcantel about her play, “Airness.”

Playwright Chelsea Marcantel didn’t set out to write about people who compete playing air guitar — even though she eventually did just that.

Her play, “Airness,” about people who do, makes its world premiere at the 41st Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville this week.

Years ago, she didn’t even know air guitar competition was a thing. Back then, this native of Louisiana was living in Chicago and began dating a man who had started playing air guitar competitively.

“I thought, this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of,” she said.

The beginning of his air guitar career dovetailed with the end of that relationship, but she later found herself drawn to the idea of air guitar after watching the 2006 documentary “Air Guitar Nation” about the first U.S. Air Guitar Championship held in 2003.

“After that, I fell down a YouTube wormhole watching competition videos and fell in love with that world,” she said.

AIRNESS in rehersal at ATL (all photos by Philip Allgeier)

She realized that the people in this world fit into the kind of people and situations she likes to write about — humans as small group primates who search to try to fit into certain tribes.

“I’m interested as a writer in what happens if we find tribes that won’t let us in or ones that we are part of where suddenly the rules don’t work for us anymore,” she said.

In “Airness,” Nina is entering her first competition and thinking she will ace this game. But she finds that this tribe isn’t what she thought. In the process of figuring out the tribe, she must learn some things about herself.

The play wasn’t written, Marcantel said, to make fun of people who play air guitar but to show how people can tap into empathy.

“That’s something I think we need at this point in time,” said Marcantel, who completed a Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Fellowship at the Julliard School last year.

It wasn’t long after finishing her fellowship that she received word that her play was chosen for the Humana Festival. The news came, she said, “like a bolt from the blue.”

She was in her agent’s office to discuss something else when her agent got an email and said, “The Humana Festival wants to do ‘Airness.'”  Marcantel didn’t even know her agent had sent the play to Actors Theatre for consideration.

“I was flabbergasted,” she said, but admittedly happy.

Soon after, she began having discussions with the play’s director and Actors Theatre associate director Meredith McDonough, who even flew to New York where Marcantel organized friends to have an informal first reading last September.

Since coming to Louisville last month, Marcantel has relished spending time in the south, which has felt like a homecoming, and with a collaborative cast who make working on her play “feel like summer camp.”

After the Humana Festival, another new play, “Everything is Wonderful,” is set to premiere at the Contemporary American Theatre Festival in West Virginia in July. After that, she plans to write more plays and look to work in television, films and even documentary films.

2017 Humana Festival of New American Plays

WHAT: “Airness” by Chelsea Marcantel. Directed by Meredith McDonough.

WHEN: Friday, March 24 through April 9

WHERE: Actors Theatre of Louisville, 316 W. Main St., Victor Jory Theatre

COST: $25-$50

INFORMATION: 502-584-1205; www.actorstheatre.org

Reach reporter Elizabeth Kramer at 502-582-4682 and ekramer@courier-journal.com. Follow her on Twitter @arts_bureau and on Facebook at Elizabeth Kramer – Arts Writer.

Read the original article here.