MARCH 1 – APRIL 7, 2019


Kara Lee Corthron
Emily Feldman
Dave Harris
Lucas Hnath
Ismail Khalidi
Matthew Paul Olmos
Lily Padilla
Naomi Wallace

Louisville, KY – Actors Theatre of Louisville proudly announces the lineup for the 43rd Humana Festival of New American Plays.  A cultural highlight for theatre lovers, artists and producers across the country, the Humana Festival runs March 1 through April 7, 2019 in Louisville.

This year’s Festival program will feature five world premieres, listed in order of first performance:

We’ve Come to Believe by Kara Lee Corthron, Emily Feldman and Matthew Paul Olmos
The Corpse Washer adapted by Ismail Khalidi and Naomi Wallace, from the novel of the same name by Sinan Antoon
The Thin Place by Lucas Hnath
How to Defend Yourself by Lily Padilla, co-world premiere with Victory Gardens Theater
Everybody Black by Dave Harris

By investing in the future of playwriting, Actors Theatre makes a significant impact not only on the national theatre canon, but also on the economic prosperity and cultural vibrancy of Louisville. The 2018 Festival was attended by more than 38,000 people, with visitors from 41 states and 52 colleges and universities represented in the audience.

For over four decades, Actors Theatre of Louisville has been a driving force in new play development, introducing more than 450 plays into the American theatre repertoire and representing the work of more than 400 playwrights and ensembles. The internationally acclaimed Humana Festival is recognized as a crucial incubator for new work and a launchpad for myriad subsequent productions around the country and the world. Plays  that have recently premiered at Actors Theatre—including Molly Smith Metzler’s Cry it Out, Leah Nanako Winkler’s God Said This, Jen Silverman’s The Roommate and Colman Domingo’s Dot—have continued to be produced on stages far and wide.

This year’s lineup of plays will be performed in rotating repertory in three theatres located in Actors Theatre’s downtown Louisville complex: the 633-seat Pamela Brown Auditorium, 318-seat Bingham Theatre and 159-seat Victor Jory Theatre. The 2019 Humana Festival schedule also offers a weekend of enrichment events for college students, and features special weekend packages for theatre lovers and practitioners alike. These weekends are packed with discussions, networking opportunities and parties, making Louisville an exciting destination for the American theatre this spring.

Weekend packages for the 2019 Humana Festival of New American Plays are now on sale. Single tickets go on sale January 3, 2019. For more information, please visit or call our Box Office at 502.584.1205.

Actors Theatre celebrates the 43rd Humana Festival with underwriter the Humana Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Humana, Inc. Additional support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust.

Introducing the work featured in the 43rd Humana Festival of New American Plays: 

The Corpse Washer
adapted for the stage by Ismail Khalidi and Naomi Wallace
from the novel of the same name by Sinan Antoon
directed by Mark Brokaw
commissioned by Actors Theatre of Louisville
March 1 – April 7
in the Bingham Theatre

A haunting portrait of an artist’s fight to survive in war-torn Iraq, where life and death are inextricably intertwined.

In an Iraq beset by decades of war and occupation, Jawad faces a difficult choice. Must he follow in his father’s footsteps washing the bodies of the dead—an honored Muslim tradition—or can he pursue his dreams of being an artist? Adapted from Iraqi writer Sinan Antoon’s award-winning novel, The Corpse Washer is a haunting portrait of a young man coming of age and a society’s fight for survival, in a country where life and death are inextricably intertwined.

The Corpse Washer was developed with support from New York Theatre Workshop.

Ismail Khalidi and Naomi Wallace’s commission to adapt The Corpse Washer has been generously underwritten by Jacqueline R. and Theodore S. Rosky as part of the Les Waters New Works Fund.

Ismail Khalidi’s plays include Truth Serum Blues (Pangea World Theater, 2005), Tennis in Nablus (Alliance Theatre, 2010), Foot (Teatro Amal, 2016), Sabra Falling (Pangea World Theater, 2017), an adaptation of Ghassan Kanafani’s Returning to Haifa (with Naomi Wallace, Finborough Theatre, 2018) and Dead Are My People (Noor Theatre, 2018). His writing has appeared in numerous anthologies as well as The Nation, Mizna, Guernica, American Theatre and Remezcla. Khalidi co-edited (also with Naomi Wallace) Inside/Outside: Six Plays from Palestine and the Diaspora (TCG, 2015). Khalidi has received commissions from The Public Theater, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Noor Theatre and Pangea World Theater. He is currently a visiting artist with Teatro Amal in Chile, and holds an M.F.A. from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Naomi Wallace’s plays―produced in the United States, the United Kingdom and the Middle East―include One Flea Spare, The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek, Things of Dry Hours, The Fever Chart, And I and Silence, Night is a Room and Returning to Haifa (adapted with Ismail Khalidi). In 2009, One Flea Spare was incorporated into the permanent repertoire of the French National Theatre, the Comédie-Française. Only two American playwrights have been added to the Comédie’s repertoire in 300 years. Awards: MacArthur Fellowship, Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, Fellowship of Southern Writers Drama Award, Obie Award and the Horton Foote Prize. Wallace received the inaugural Windham-Campbell Prize in drama and an Arts and Letters Award in Literature.

The Thin Place
by Lucas Hnath
directed by Les Waters
commissioned by Actors Theatre of Louisville
March 5 – April 7
in the Victor Jory Theatre

It’s where the line between this world and another is very, very thin.

Everyone who ever died is here, just in a different part of here. And if you listen, really listen, you can hear them—in the thin places—the places where the line between our world and some other world is very thin. It’s like if you were to imagine an octopus in an aquarium, pressed up against glass…except that there’s no glass, and no octopus. An eerie new play by the Tony-nominated author of The Christians, Death Tax, and A Doll’s House, Part 2.

The Thin Place is a recipient of an Edgerton Foundation New Play Award. The Thin Place was developed at the Colorado New Play Festival, June 2018.

Lucas Hnath’s commission for The Thin Place has been generously underwritten by Ms. Elizabeth Rounsavall as part of the Les Waters New Works Fund.

Lucas Hnath’s plays include A Doll’s House, Part 2 (8 Tony Award nominations, including Best Play); Hillary and Clinton; Red Speedo; The Christians; A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney; Isaac’s Eye and Death Tax. He has been produced on Broadway at the John Golden Theatre and Off-Broadway at New York Theatre Workshop, Playwrights Horizons, Soho Rep, and Ensemble Studio Theatre. His plays have been produced nationally and internationally, with premieres at the Humana Festival of New American Plays, Victory Gardens Theater and South Coast Repertory. He has been a resident playwright at New Dramatists since 2011. Awards: Steinberg Playwright Award, Guggenheim Fellowship, Whiting Award, two Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award Citations, Outer Critics Circle Award for Best New Play, an Obie Award and the Windham-Campbell Prize.

How to Defend Yourself
by Lily Padilla
directed by Marti Lyons
co-world premiere with Victory Gardens Theater
March 13 – April 7
in the Bingham Theatre

In a self-defense workshop, college students reckon with what it really means to fight back.

Your body is a weapon. So says Brandi, who starts teaching her peers self-defense after fraternity brothers assault one of her sorority sisters. Joined by two male classmates who show up in support, the group learns how to fight back, while wrestling with their own complicated experiences and desires. But how much can a class actually teach them about protecting themselves—and each other? Visceral and provocative, How to Defend Yourself examines the impact of rape culture, on campus and beyond.

How to Defend Yourself was developed in the 2018 Wagner New Play Festival at the University of California, San Diego directed by Kim Rubinstein and mentored by Naomi Iizuka, Allan Havis, Deborah Stein and Kim Rubinstein. The roles were originated by University of California, San Diego undergraduate and graduate actors. The play was further developed in the 2018 IGNITION New Play Festival at Victory Gardens Theater and the 2018 Ojai Playwrights Conference. 

Lily Padilla makes plays about sex, intersectional communities and what it means to heal in a violent world. They just received their M.F.A. from the University of California, San Diego, where they were mentored by Naomi Iizuka, Deborah Stein, Allan Havis and Kim Rubinstein. Padilla’s work has been developed with the Ojai Playwrights Conference, Victory Gardens Theater, INTAR Theatre and San Diego Repertory Theatre. Her immersive audio installation And Then You Wait, co-created with Dylan Key, reimagined an abandoned grain silo as an apocalyptic fallout shelter in the 2017 La Jolla Playhouse WOW Festival. (w)holeness was a finalist for the 2018 Latinx Theatre Commons Carnaval of New Work. Padilla facilitates playwriting workshops with the La Jolla Playhouse/TCG Veterans & Theatre Institute. They hold a BFA from NYU Tisch, ETW & Playwrights Horizons. She is also a director, actor and community builder who looks at rehearsal as a laboratory for how we might be together.

Everybody Black
by Dave Harris
directed by Awoye Timpo
March 19 – April 7
in the Pamela Brown Auditorium

A blisteringly funny, 100% definitive tour of The Black Experience™.

When some wealthy white folks offer a big paycheck, a black historian agrees to write the definitive version of The Black Experience™. The problem is, the historian has never met another black person. What emerges is a blisteringly funny satire filled with unforgettable characters, including a brazen Barack Obama here to set the record straight, and a talk show about black people addicted to dating white people. With searing wit and bold candor, Everybody Black explores how we chronicle—and make sense of—Black History.

Dave Harris is a poet and playwright from West Philly. His plays include White History (Victory Gardens Theater IGNITION New Play Festival, O’Neill National Playwrights Conference finalist, Relentless Award semi-finalist), Exception to the Rule (O’Neill National Playwrights Conference finalist), Tambo & Bones (Black Swan Lab at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, SPACE on Ryder Farm) and Incendiary (National New Play Network/The Kennedy Center’s M.F.A. Playwrights’ Workshop). He is a member of The Working Farm at SPACE on Ryder Farm, a Cave Canem Poetry Fellow, a Callaloo Poetry Fellow and the 2018 winner of The Rattle Poetry Prize. His first full-length collection of poetry, Patricide, will be published in May 2019 from Button Poetry. Harris received his B.A. from Yale University and is a second-year M.F.A. playwright at the University of California, San Diego.

We’ve Come to Believe
by Kara Lee Corthron, Emily Feldman and Matthew Paul Olmos
directed by Will Davis
performed by the actors of the 2018-2019 Professional Training Company
commissioned by Actors Theatre of Louisville
February 24 – April 7
in the Bingham Theatre

Welcome to the bizarre world of collective delusion—and the alarming places it can lead.

Consider the raw power of groupthink: hordes of collectors losing their minds over the latest consumer fad, hundreds of followers duped by a charismatic leader, and entire communities gripped by irrational panic. How do so many people come to share the same bizarre beliefs? How would we know if we are the ones who are deluded? Writing for the actors in this season’s Professional Training Company, three fearless playwrights dive into the absurd and sometimes hilarious world of collective delusion, and the alarming places it can lead.

We’ve Come to Believe is supported in part by The Roy Cockrum Foundation.

Kara Lee Corthron’s plays include Welcome to Fear City (Contemporary American Theater Festival, Kansas City Repertory Theatre), AliceGraceAnon (New Georges), Holly Down in Heaven (Forum Theatre, Washington, D.C.) and Listen for the Light (Know Theatre of Cincinnati). She’s the author of the young adult novel The Truth of Right Now, from Simon & Schuster. Awards include the Parents’ Choice Gold Award for The Truth of Right Now, Vineyard Theatre’s Paula Vogel Playwriting Award, the Princess Grace and Helen Merrill Playwriting Awards, four MacDowell Fellowships, and residencies at Bogliasco (Italy), Skriðuklaustur (Iceland), and Hawthornden (Scotland), and she’s a proud member of New Dramatists. Her work has been developed at Ars Nova, Atlantic Theater Company, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, LAByrinth Theater Company, Page 73, PlayPenn, Seven Devils Playwrights Conference and South Coast Repertory, among others. Corthron is currently under commission from La Jolla Playhouse, and writes for the TV drama You on Lifetime. She is an alumna of The Juilliard School. For more information, please visit

Emily Feldman’s work has been developed by the Playwrights’ Center, Colt Coeur, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Magic Theatre, Alliance Theatre, Roundabout Theatre Company, The Playwrights Realm, JAW at Portland Center Stage, Cape Cod Theatre Project, WildWind Performance Lab, The New Harmony Project and Second Stage Theater, among others. Feldman is an alumna of The Working Farm at SPACE on Ryder Farm and the Jerome Fellowship/Core Apprenticeship at the Playwrights’ Center, was an Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition finalist, and was a Shank Playwright in Residence at Playwrights Horizons. She’s currently a member of Interstate 73 at Page 73, The Orchard Project NYC Greenhouse and Two River Theater’s Emerging Playwrights Group, and is working on new commissions from Manhattan Theatre Club, Playwrights Horizons and Arena Stage. She received her M.F.A. from the University of California, San Diego and her B.A. from Middlebury College. 

Matthew Paul Olmos is a three-time Sundance Institute Fellowship/Residency recipient, a New Dramatists Resident Playwright, and an alumnus of Center Theatre Group’s L.A. Writers’ Workshop, Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Black Swan Lab and Echo Theater Company’s Playwrights Lab. He received a Princess Grace Award in Playwriting, was selected by Sam Shepard for La MaMa’s Ellen Stewart Emerging Playwright Award, and was mentored by Ruth Maleczech through Mabou Mines/SUITE. Other Residencies and Fellowships: New York Theatre Workshop, Baryshnikov Arts Center, Dramatists Guild, Primary Stages and INTAR. He is an Ensemble Studio Theatre lifetime member and a proud Kilroys nominator. His work has been presented nationally and internationally, and is published and taught in universities. He is currently devising American Nationalism Project, developed through New York Theatre Workshop, and a play with music, We Walk Along The Christmas Bridge, developed through Center Theatre Group. Upcoming: so go the ghosts of méxico, part three at Undermain Theatre, Dallas. For more information, visit


Festival Ticket Packages will be on sale beginning November 15 and are available for the following weekends, enabling you to see a variety of Humana Festival plays and access special events: March 15-17, March 22-24, March 29-31 and April 5-7, 2019. Packages are available for theatre lovers and practitioners on all Festival weekends, and for college students and professors the weekend of March 22-24.

Single ticket prices start at $25, and tickets will be on sale beginning January 3, 2019. For more information or to purchase Humana Festival weekend packages, visit or call 502.584.1205.