I 've been looking over the list of plays presented by Goodman Theatre's New Stages initiative since its inception ten years ago. Pretty impressive. The roughly annual festival offers staged readings and—since 2011—workshop productions of new work by interesting playwrights, and some of the free performances have that retrospective shoulda-been-there mystique theatergoers both love and dread. Just for example: the 2005 New Stages featured an early look at Elliot, a Soldier's Fugue, the Pulitzer Prize-nominated first third of a trilogy by Quiara Alegría Hudes (who went on to win a Pulitzer for the next third, Water by the Spoonful); 2006 saw The Brothers Size from Tarell Alvin McCraney's great "The Brother/Sister Plays"; and the 2007 edition gave us Lynn Nottage's devastating (and, yes, Pulitzer-winning) Ruined.
This time around New Stages is concentrating entirely on Latino playwrights, which seems to have changed the dynamic somewhat. One play is returning for a workshop production after having already received a staged reading in 2012; two of the participating playwrights are a lot better established than has been the norm. There's a smaller pool, in short, with fewer wild cards.
Still, it's a hell of a lineup. Hudes is back again, directing a staged reading of her own The Rooster Room (Sat 12/14, 11 AM), a drama set in a bar located on Hudes's home turf of north Philadelphia. Also getting staged readings: Another Word for Beauty (Sun 12/15, 2:30 PM), in which veteran play and screen writer José Rivera (The Motorcycle Diaries) explores the lives of imprisoned South American women, and Feathers and Teeth (Sat 12/14, 3 PM), a work—from the pen of this year's only true newcomer, Charise Castro Smith—described as one "part Greek tragedy and one part Gremlins."
The two workshop production slots are given over to a couple Chicago favorites. Kristoffer Diaz first caught the attention of local audiences in 2008, when his geopolitics-in-the–wrestling-ring satire, The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, debuted at Victory Gardens Theater's Ignition Festival before going on to all manner of plaudits in New York. For New Stages, he's trying out another socially conscious comedy, The Upstairs Concierge, whose to-die-for cast includes Charin Alvarez, Lawrence Grimm, and Tawny Newsome. Martín Zimmerman, meanwhile, has had several plays produced at Chicago theaters—and ostensibly lives here, too, though he seems to spend a good amount of time doing residencies around the country. His entry is The Solid Sand Below, which follows the career of a young man (the estimable Adam Poss) from "decidedly reluctant recruit to enthusiastic and disciplined soldier." The Upstairs Concierge and The Solid Sand Below run in repertory Tuesday through Sunday; contact the theater for specific showtimes.