Telluride Playwrights Festival: “The Banana Tree”

Telluride Playwrights Festival: “The Banana Tree”

Dan Castellaneta & Deb Lacusta, in town with "The Banana Tree"

Dan Castellaneta & Deb Lacusta, in town with “The Banana Tree”

Dan Castellanata is a vegetarian and teetotaler, who practices T’ai Chi and exercises regularly. Why do we care? Because the actor-comedian-screenwriter is best known for his long-running role as a guy who eats meat, drinks beer, and rarely exercises, namely Homer Simpson. (Dan also does a number of other characters on the “The Simpsons”: Abraham “Grampa” Simpson, Barney Gumble, Krusty the Clown, Groundskeeper, Willie, Mayor Quimby and Hans Moleman.)

Dan and his wife, TV writer/actor Deb Lacusta, are in town for the Telluride Playwright’s Festival, (through Sunday, July 28), for a staged reading of their latest joint venture, “The Banana Tree.”

“The Banana Tree” is a wacky new comedy involving a robber, a convenience store clerk/aspiring magician, a stoned teenager, and a criminal mastermind that happens to be a telepathic banana tree. The event is scheduled for the closing night of the Playwrights Festival, July 28, 8 p.m., at the historic Sheridan Opera House, and is free to individuals with festival passes. (Tickets are also available at the door for $15.)

This year, the Playwright Festival has partnered with the Bloomington Playwrights Project in Bloomington, Indiana. Next year, that company will be premiering “The Banana Tree” –  along with another new play, the science thriller, “Sequence,” by Canadian playwright Arun Lukra, scheduled for its staged reading Saturday night, 8 p.m., same venue. (“Sequence” will be directed by Telluride Theatre‘s artistic director, Sasha Sullivan).

The tradition of Jennie Franks’s Playwrights Festival, is to have actors and writers work on their new work for a week before presenting it to the community. Plays such as “The Banana Tree” are all in their final “incubation” stage and the hope is that Telluride will once again prove to be the perfect laboratory. Following each reading, the Playwrights Fest holds a “talk-back” session to help writers further the play’s journey. Plays that have been read in Telluride have gone on to productions in larger theaters in New York, Chicago, Denver, Detroit – and soon, Bloomington, Indiana.

Jennie Franks started the Telluride Playwrights Festival because she believes new plays are vital to the future of the art form. Recycling is a good idea – but in theatre, the practice often becomes a surrogate for a safe bet. It takes guts and grit to bring a new play to the stage: a playwright may have to work over his ideas for as long as 5 – 10 years. The Playwrights Festival often serves to accelerate the process.

With a little help from its friends….

Join in on the fun. Passes and Memberships can be purchased at

For more information, contact or call 970-708-2372.

And to learn more, click the “play” button and listen to my chat with Dan and Deb.

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