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Alexander Weisman
L-R: Terrell Donnell Sledge (Mac), Molly Ward (Julia) in Pioneer Theatre Company's "Find and Sign."

Inspiration can come from the unlikeliest of places — or perhaps the most likely.

"For me it grew out of seeing 'Othello' in London," said playwright Wendy MacLeod, who penned "Find and Sign," Pioneer Theatre Company's next production.

"It started with a love story," MacLeod said. "And I began to wonder about Iago and Emilia. She helps Iago betray Othello — how did this good woman get enlisted to do something so dastardly?"'

But those who may be shaky on remembering the nuances of 'Othello' should not shy away from this new work.

It's a modern-day romantic comedy set in the New York City music industry, in the world of hip-hop and R&B.

"I have no history with rap or hip-hop," MacLeod said. "My history is more aligned with Julia — the main character. She's a public teacher and I'm a professor. It's really about her struggle to better this kid's life and get him to go to college. Her new boyfriend has better plans for him."

"It is a romantic comedy first," she said. "Even though it's quite ambitious thematically."

Those themes include racism, betrayal, disappointment and commentary on the public education system.

"In 'Othello,' Iago is the only black man in a white world. In my play, Iago is the only white man in a black world.

"I've worked on it for three years. It's been a slow process, but a dream process honestly," she said. "I feel like the play is fully realized."

"It's really fun when a line feels so natural — you learn lines very quickly that way," said Molly Ward, who plays Julia.

"The play is very conversational. And that's not just because it's contemporary. It really speaks to Wendy's ear for dialogue. Not all contemporary plays roll off the tongue like that.

"What's wonderful about this role for me, is that Julia balances her naive optimism with a healthy dose of irony," Ward said. "To play a character that's both jaded and hopeful at the same time, feels really real.

"So many of Julia's conversations are conversations I've had with my friends," Ward added. "You know, saying, 'You don't need this guy' — who hasn't said that?"

"Like I said, this has been a dream process," MacLeod said. "Chuck (Charles Morey) is a masterful director and we have some stellar actors in the cast. The economy has been good for us," she added. "Top-tier New York actors have been willing to come out here and work on the play."

With this being Morey's last season as the theater's artistic director, MacLeod is thrilled with his commitment to new works.

"It is the future of American theater," she said. "I know it's risky economically. But there are a lot of great plays being written right now. I hope that boards and funders continue to be brave about taking chances on new works — especially those written by females"

MacLeod adds that of the new works being produced across the country, only 15 percent are written by women. "It's a problem. But PTC is doing its part to solve it."

"I just hope that Salt Lake audiences will be adventurous about coming to see a new play. I hope it's exciting for them to see the first staging of a play."

If you go …

What: "Find and Sign," a new work by Wendy MacLeod

When: Jan.13-28, times vary

Where: Pioneer Theatre Company, 300 S. 1400 East

How much: $25-$44

Phone: 801-581-6961

Web: www.pioneertheatre.org

Email: [email protected]