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09/03/2013 09:48 am ET | Updated Nov 03, 2013

Theater: Village -- A Lucy Thurber Extravaganza

I have always thought that, as a playwright, one pretty big sign you've made it is a season at the Signature Theatre. How much of an honor is that? Three of your shows happening off-Broadway in one season. Well, right now, Lucy Thurber has five of her shows playing simultaneously at five different West Village theaters. Pretty cool, right?

"For me it was one of those crazy fantasies," Thurber said. "I thought maybe, if I'm really lucky, this would happen when I was 75."

Thurber's five plays -- Scarcity, Ashville, Where We're Born, Killers and Other Family, and Stay, also known as "The Hill Town Plays" -- comprise the inaugural "Theater: Village" festival, which Rattlestick Playwrights Theater Artistic Director David Van Asselt hopes will be an annual event. "The West Village used to be a bohemian hangout and a center for art," Van Asselt, who thought up the festival, stated. "I just felt like I would love to revitalize that spirit if I could."

Rattlestick has long been a supporter of Thurber's work. The company has previously produced productions of three of the five plays (Where We're Born, Killers and Other Family and Stay) and is now presenting the one world premiere (Ashville). According to press notes: "Each of 'The Hill Town Plays' examines a pivotal stage in a woman's life -- from a childhood of poverty, alcoholism, and abuse in a western Massachusetts mill town, through college and coming to terms with one's sexual identity, and onto adulthood and a successful writing career."

The festival is a collaboration of the following theaters: the Rattlestick, Cherry Lane Theatre, Axis Theatre, and New Ohio Theatre. Van Asselt stated that, while he chose the Thurber plays, he hopes the artistic teams at the other theaters will have some say in what to present in the coming years. Obviously the chances of presenting another five-play cycle are slim, so Van Asselt thinks in the future the plays will simply be thematically linked.

Meanwhile, for Thurber, the festival has been "amazing." She said none of the plays "made it out untouched" - she revised the four older offerings for the festival. Stay received the most work. She simply was not happy with Stay and knew it needed to be stronger for this festival. "It's very American -- this idea of you start somewhere and you become something," Thuber explained. "I needed the play that showed how do you take all of these different pieces and make one full story and end in the present in sort of an uplifting place." Even though there is a recommended order to see the plays in, Thurber says you can see them in almost any order, as long as you see the new-and-improved Stay last.

The festival is designed so you can see all the plays in a weekend, but even Thurber realizes that may be too much. This is not light entertainment. That said, you could if you wanted to. The festival is offering a rare chance to see five parts of a whole at once -- over the course of a few days or a few weeks.

"To get to work on them as one big piece is a real profound gift," Thurber, who ran from theater to theater for a couple of weeks, said. "We're a little like Don Quixote - we're all gloriously mad. We're Mad Hatters running around the West Village having a fabulous time."

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