Written by current students and alumni, the New Plays Festival promises to offer variety and scope with selections ranging from staged readings to bare stage to a fully-mounted production.
The festival will commence with a staged reading of “Henry Moore is Melting” on Friday, April 12 at 7:30 p.m. in Studio Theatre, and conclude with “Crash,” also at 7:30 in Studio Theatre, May 23-25.
It was the brainchild of Professor of Theatre Liz Carlin-Metz, who saw the need to feature playwriting differently than it has been in mainstage productions.
“We have a very strong playwriting program here,” she said, citing the playwriting workshop that is held every term. “But it’s kind of underground … the college at large doesn’t necessarily know about it.”
Passing on the reins to post-baccalaureate fellow Isaac Miller ’12, the endeavor began with a call for submissions over the summer.
Miller sorted through the 90-something submitted scripts, passing them on to Professor of Theatre Neil Blackadder and Visiting Instructor in English and Theatre Sherwood Kiraly, who completed the selection committee. Junior Jesse Mitchell came on board as production manager, organizing technical aspects and rallying the directors.
“We knew we had a bunch of playwrights and we wanted to showcase them,” said Miller, who has found that oftentimes “there’s this … insecurity … about yourself as an artist, and you see works that go up in theater, like the ‘[Caucasian] Chalk Circle,’ and it just, it seems kind of unattainable … [and] for the playwrights to see their work, seeing the magic of theater being applied to really young texts, is super exciting.”
According to Carlin-Metz, promoting the creation and production of new plays is one the most important responsibilities of American theater “to enhance the form … because you want new work; you don’t want to just continuously be doing revivals of Oklahoma.”
She argued that without new work, theater cannot rise to its full potential.
“Theater at its best is a reflection of society. It comments on, it critiques and hopefully helps to advance society,” she said.
She also recognized that “playwrights don’t sort of spring from the forehead of Zeus, fully formed; they need an environment in which they develop.”
Until a play has been put in the hands of actors, directors and audiences, a playwright cannot know for certain whether it is working or not.
Kiraly expressed enthusiasm for the opportunity that the festival affords playwrights, giving them the “chance to live and die on stage” and allowing them to benefit from the best education a playwright can receive: “to hear his characters and their words embodied.”
He also saw it as offering novice actors an environment in which they might test the waters. At casting, Kiraly’s fear that few actors would show up was refuted by over 80 actors who auditioned.
Carlin-Metz hoped that it will encourage burgeoning directors too, since most students who participate in theatre become involved as actors and have not yet stepped into the director role.
In the wake of the heavily developed shows of Repertory Theatre Term, the New Plays Festival also provides the department with a bit of a reprieve.
According to Carlin-Metz, it acts as a means to “bring everybody back into the fold, to reinvigorate the department” too, particularly in regards to freshmen, who could not participate in theatre for all of winter term.
For those who attend all or most of the shows, Kiraly predicted that it is going to “have a pretty impressive cumulative effect.”