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Petaluma playwright David Templeton earns national recognition for ‘Galatea’

Petaluma playwright David Templeton's “Galatea,” already an award-winning play, secured more critical acclaim this past weekend, earning national recognition as one of the top new plays released last year.

“Galatea,” a futuristic portrait of the human condition that debuted last fall, earned one of two Mimi Steinberg American Theatre Critics Association New Play citations during the awards ceremony Saturday in Costa Mesa.

“This recognition of my work, at such a national and well-respected level, feels deeply gratifying today,” said Templeton, who is also the Petaluma Argus-Courier’s community editor and a former Sonoma Index-Tribune contributor. “This entire weekend, filled with great conversations with playwrights at all stages of their careers, has been rewarding in and of itself, and being presented with the Steinberg/ATCA New Play citation in front of this community of theater-makers was genuinely thrilling.”

Templeton’s play was one of five finalists for the American Theatre Critics Association award, given to the best new play premiered professionally outside of New York City each year since 1977.

With past winners including August Wilson, Lynn Nottage and Arthur Miller, the award comes with a top prize of $25,000, two $7,500 awards and commemorative plaques.

This year’s top prize went to playwright Chiara Atik, whose “Poor Clare” debuted in Los Angeles. "Galatea’s“ fellow citation winner was Erlina Ortiz’s “Young Money,” which debuted in Philadelphia.

Templeton’s “Galatea,” which debuted at Spreckels Theatre in Rohnert Park, is a four-actor play set in the distant future that centers on the relationship between a synthetic human named Seventy-One and her therapist, Dr. Mailer (Sindu Singh). Seventy-One (Abbey Lee) was found floating in deep space in a decaying space craft, and was the lone surviving crew member of the Galatea, a large human-transport ship that disappeared without a trace more than 100 years earlier.

But the play that Templeton long saw as the best he’s ever written almost didn’t happen. Scheduled for a March 2020 debut at Spreckels Theatre in Rohnert Park, “Galatea” fell victim to coronavirus-related closures.

“There were times when I genuinely believed that what I saw as the best play I had written was perhaps never going to be seen by anyone, and that was very hard for me to wrap my head around,” Templeton said.

But the 18-month wait for the play to premiere – in September 2021, during a lull in the on-again, off-again pandemic – was worth it, as “Galatea” has since garnered a rare Honorable Mention Glickman Award as the best play to premier in the Bay Area, and now has earned even greater recognition.

Now, as acclaim for his play piles up, Templeton, 61, who jokingly refers to himself as the “world’s oldest emerging playwright,” the biggest prize might be the possibility of more doors opening.

“Hopefully it will lead to expanded opportunities to have my plays seen by audiences on a wider scale in the near future,” Templeton said.

Tyler Silvy is editor of the Petaluma Argus-Courier. Reach him at tyler.silvy@arguscourier.com, 707-776-8458, or @tylersilvy on Twitter.

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