Humana Festival of New American Plays

About the Humana Festival of New American Plays

The Humana Festival is a world-renowned event that has introduced more than 450 plays into the American and international theatre repertoire. Celebrated past premieres include Lucas Hnath’s The Christians, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ Appropriate, Jen Silverman’s The Roommate, Kimber Lee’s brownsville song (b-side for tray), Idris Goodwin’s How We Got On, Molly Smith Metzler’s Cry it Out, A. Rey Pamatmat’s Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them, Jordan Harrison’s Maple and Vine, Gina Gionfriddo’sBecky Shaw, Naomi Iizuka’s Polaroid Stories, Charles Mee’s Big Love, José Rivera’s Marisol, Naomi Wallace’s One Flea Spare, Emily Mann’s Execution of Justice, John Pielmeier’s Agnes of God, and Marsha Norman’s Getting Out. The Festival has also featured new work made by acclaimed ensemble companies, such as Rude Mechs (The Method Gun), UNIVERSES (Ameriville), and SITI Company (Steel Hammer, Cabin Pressure, Charles Mee’s bobrauschenbergamerica, and more).

Three Humana Festival plays have won the Pulitzer Prize—The Gin Game by D. L. Coburn, Crimes of the Heart by Beth Henley, and Dinner with Friends by Donald Margulies—and plays launched in Louisville have received a host of prestigious honors, including the Obie Award, Kesselring Prize, Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award, Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, and many others. More than 400 Humana Festival plays have been published in anthologies and individual acting editions, making Actors Theatre a visible and vital force in the development of new work.

The Humana Festival is the premier event of its kind in the nation, drawing theatre lovers, journalists, and film and stage producers from around the world. About 38,000 patrons attend the six weeks of plays and associated events, including students from more than 50 colleges and universities. The Festival culminates in two industry weekends, which bring together a collection of amazing new plays with one-of-a-kind panels, cocktail parties, discussions and networking events. It is the perfect opportunity to see new work, make new connections, and support the creation of new American theatre.


Actors Theatre of Louisville’s first Festival of New American Plays, held in March 1977, was created by former Producing Director Jon Jory. Originally named the Playfaire Festival, this inaugural event was devoted to premiering American contemporary drama. The Festival featured two plays: Indulgences in the Louisville Harem by John Orlock and The Gin Game by D. L. Coburn. The Gin Game would open on Broadway later that year; the production starred Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn and was directed by Mike Nichols. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1978. Actors Theatre’s 1978 Festival lineup included Marsha Norman’s Getting Out, and 1979 brought not only the premiere of Beth Henley’s Crimes of the Heart, but also the beginning of the theatre’s partnership with the Humana Foundation. The Humana Festival was off and running, and its annual slate of world premieres would make a significant impact on the national theatre landscape, leading to a steady stream of subsequent productions, publications and awards.

Seven Humana Festival plays have won the Obie Award: The Christians by Lucas Hnath, Appropriate by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Big Love by Charles Mee (also for direction by Les Waters), Slavs! by Tony Kushner, My Left Breast by Susan Miller, Marisol by José Rivera and One Flea Spare by Naomi Wallace.

Three Humana Festival plays have won the Pulitzer Prize: D. L. Coburn’s The Gin Game, Beth Henley’s Crimes of the Heart and Donald Margulies’ Dinner with Friends. The Gin Game and Crimes of the Heart also received Tony Award nominations.

Keely and Du by Jane Martin, Omnium-Gatherum by Alexandra Gersten-Vassilaros and Theresa Rebeck, and Becky Shaw by Gina Gionfriddo were named Pulitzer Prize finalists.

Five Humana Festival plays have won the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize: How to Say Goodbye by Mary Gallagher, My Sister in this House by Wendy Kesselman, A Narrow Bed by Ellen McLaughlin, My Left Breast by Susan Miller and One Flea Spare by Naomi Wallace. Nine others have been finalists.

Naomi Iizuka’s Polaroid Stories won the PEN Center USA West Award.

Winners of the Kesselring Prize include Lucas Hnath’s The Christians, Bridget Carpenter’s The Faculty Room, and Naomi Wallace’s One Flea Spare. José Rivera’s Marisol and Edwin Sanchez’s Icarus received Honorable Mentions.

Seven Humana Festival plays have won the Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award: 2 by Romulus Linney, Dinner with Friends by Donald Margulies, Getting Out by Marsha Norman, and Jane Martin’s Talking With…, Keely and Du, Jack and Jill, and Anton in Show Business.

Many other Humana Festival plays have won Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award Citations, including Dinner with Friends by Donald Margulies, Big Love by Charles Mee, After Ashley by Gina Gionfriddo, Great Falls by Lee Blessing, Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them by A. Rey Pamatmat, and Lucas Hnath’s Death Tax and The Christians.

Jeff Augustin’s Cry Old Kingdom and Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s BOB: A Life in Five Acts, both of which premiered in the Humana Festival, won the Barrie and Bernice Stavis Award, given by the National Theatre Conference to outstanding emerging playwrights.



The Humana Festival of New American Plays is made possible by the generosity of the Humana Foundation. The Humana Foundation’s support of the Festival began in 1979 and represents the longest continuous partnership between a theatre and a corporation in the country today. In 1982, the festival was renamed the Humana Festival of New American Plays in honor of the Louisville-based company’s ongoing and generous support.

Since its inception, the Humana Foundation has placed an emphasis on civic and cultural development in communities where Humana has a meaningful presence. In a longstanding and thriving partnership, the Humana Foundation supports Actors Theatre of Louisville and its remarkable Humana Festival of New American Plays, demonstrating a joint commitment to artistic exploration and appreciation at home, across the region and around the globe.

Actors Theater of Louisville
316 West Main St.
Louisville, KY 40202
Box Office: 502.584.1205
502.371.0956 TDD

Share Your Thoughts