City Theatre's Momentum Festival gets underway with four new works

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Pittsburgh audiences can play a part in getting a new work up and running at City Theatre’s annual Momentum Festival, featuring four plays in various stages of development.

Besides the feedback sessions, this year’s readings feature local star power and come on the heels of an example of what the festival can do for a developing play such as “Hope and Gravity,” which just finished a run at City.

“The festival provides an opportunity for writers to hear their work performed in front of an audience and a creative community, and that has impact,” said Tracy Brigden, the South Side theater’s artistic director. “Last year, we featured a reading of Michael Hollinger’s new play, ‘Hope and Gravity.’ Subsequently, after revisions, rehearsal and collaborative artistic input, the world premiere of ‘Hope and Gravity’ enjoyed a successful run on City Theatre’s Mainstage.”

Here’s what’s in store this year at Momentum, followed by the schedule. The festival runs Thursday-June 1.

Tickets are $20 for a four-day pass; $5 per show at 412-431-CITY (2489) or

• “The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence” by Madeleine George, directed by Sheila McKenna, featuring Harry Bouvy and Rebecca Harris.

A “Watson” has been sidekick to Sherlock Holmes, Alexander Graham Bell and the creators of the supercomputer that became “Jeopardy!” champ. It’s also the name of an amiable techno-dweeb who is just looking for love in this tribute (and cautionary tale) dedicated to the people — and machines — upon which we depend.

• “The Unbuilt City” by Keith Bunin, directed by Tracy Brigden, featuring Brett Mack and Mary Rawson.

From the writer of “Sam Bendrix at the Bon Soir” and “The Credeaux Canvas,” we meet Claudia, who has lived a life of luxury and loneliness in the same Brooklyn townhouse in which she grew up. As her health and finances are in decline, a representative from an archive visits with an opportunity to sell her secret collection and discover her connection to New York City history.

• “Halftime with Don” by Ken Weitzman, directed by Christian Parker, featuring Tom Atkins, Kimberly Parker Green, Daina Michelle Griffith and Cameron Knight.

Retired NFL player Don Devers has had more surgeries than he can count, experiences violent outbursts and relies on Post-It notes to offset his struggle with traumatic brain injury. With the help of Don’s daughter and superfan Ed Ryan’s wife, both pregnant and plotting from the sidelines, Ed and his hero find new resolve to get back in the game.

• “Mr. Joy” by Daniel Beaty, featuring Bria Walker.

The solo play that is also part of City’s 2014-15 season finds a Harlem community disrupted when the Chinese immigrant’s shoe repair shop, a neighborhood pillar for decades, does not open its doors.

Momentum schedule:

Thursday: 7 p.m. reading, “The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence.”

Friday: 6:30 p.m., playwrights and directors panel. 8 p.m. reading, “The Unbuilt City.”

Saturday: 2-3 p.m., workshop, “Writing Across Dramatic Mediums.” 4 p.m. reading, “Halftime with Don.” 6 p.m., Momentum Party. 8 p.m. reading, “Mr. Joy.”

Sunday: 2 p.m. reading, “The Unbuilt City.”

— Sharon Eberson

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