In 1978, Murray Mednick and five other playwrights, including Sam Shepard and Maria Irene Fornes, converged on the old Padua Hills estate in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, just east of Los Angeles. The playwrights, as well as playwriting students and actors, were given free reign to re-investigate their creativity, developing writing exercises for the morning, rehearsing in the afternoon, and presenting the results in the evening.
Under Mednick’s artistic direction, the Festival and Workshop became a model that, staged annually, had a lasting impact on American theater. Among the many playwrights of national prominence to emerge from or be nurtured by Padua are: David Henry Hwang, John Steppling, John O’Keefe, Kelly Stuart, Jon Robin Baitz, Marlane Meyer, Julie Hebert, Susan Champagne, Susan Mosakowski, and Neena Beber, to name a few.
In 2001, under the artistic direction of Guy Zimmerman, Padua became a production company mounting regular seasons of new work drawn from the extensive list of Padua writers. Since then the company has staged over twenty-five evenings of new work, including three in New York City, and three abroad. These productions have garnered a host of LA Weekly, Garland, and Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle awards and an American Theatre Critics Association citation. In 2003, the company published two play anthologies, distributed nationally by Theatre Communications Group.
Padua on the Internet
A history of literary theatre in America would focus on the flourishing of New York’s Off Off Broadway movement in the 1960s, when European theatrical influences merged with a jazz-inspired, American sensibility. To me, what Murray Mednick achieved with the Padua Festival and Workshop was a continuation and a deepening of this aesthetic, even as it waned elsewhere in the 1980s and 90s and into the new century.
With Padua Playwrights our aim has been to sustain the momentum, producing plays by Murray and the other important Padua writers, while also providing whatever resources we could muster to the community of Padua writers, including a younger generation of Padua-influenced playwrights.
Everywhere we sense the cultural ground shifting again. The new alignment can at present only be guessed at, but questions are once again being asked, and this can only be good for the arts. This website is intended to gather together as much of the Padua work as can be assemble in one (virtual) location. Archival, perhaps, but still useful in the ongoing evolution of theatre as a transformational art form.
Guy Zimmerman – Artistic Director