The Reva Shiner Comedy Award is one of the few national contests for full-length plays that award their winners not only with cash prizes, but also with full productions of their winning plays. The Bloomington Playwrights Project received over 225 submissions to the Reva Shiner contest this past year. Over the course of four months, they narrowed these down to ten finalists; Artifice emerged at last as the favorite.
Its playwright, Anne Flanagan, is a Los Angeles-based writer, teacher and private investigator.
In Artifice, struggling artist Payne Showers finally gets his big break–just before he dies. Fortunately, his death sends the value of his work skyrocketing. His widow Maggie must auction it all off to avoid bankruptcy and (yikes) a mob hit. Unfortunately, as the day of the auction approaches, it’s learned that reports of Payne’s death have been greatly exaggerated.
Flanagan confesses that the idea for Artifice actually came from a real painter who lamented his lack of sales. “He wondered if he might do better in memori. I had just finished a serious work and really wanted to write a comedy. For this play I wanted to come up with a well-written piece, and one that had good parts for all of the actors, with no spear carriers. Although Artifice seems like just the sort of plot that might tax the efforts of an investigator, most of my own investigative work had to do with estates and possible insurance problems.”
The Production, A Family Affair
The production of Artifice has become a bit of a family affair. Flanagan’s stepdaughter, Amelia Vanderbilt, is an IU student studying stage management. “I did audition for the show, but acting isn’t my strong suit. When they learned that I was in theatre at IU, they invited me to assistant stage manage. I’m the one with the clipboard at all the rehearsals.”