Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Photos from Day 2 - Rehearsals, Tech, and Performance

Yesterday was a full day at the Festival with an early afternoon of rehearsals for the High School plays and a tech and performance of Junior HS and Elementary plays in the evening. Here are just a few pictures from the day. You can find more on our Facebook page under the album titled 2015 NJYPFestival.
Playwright Betsy Zaubler discusses a change in her script during rehearsals for THANKSGIVING SURPRISE.

One of many emotional scenes from WORN THIN by Gabrielle Poisson.

A fun scene from DOPPELGANGER by Paige Warnock (Junior HS Division winner). Here Adelaide (Rosemary Glennon, left) thinks that Mary Beth (Kelley McAndrews, right) is her reflection in a mirror. In the script, they are both wearing wedding dresses and preparing to marry the same man!

The Junior HS and Elementary playwrights with the cast at the end of last night's performance.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Photos from Day 1 - Rehearsals

Yesterday we spent the day reading through all ten plays for the Festival with many of the playwrights present. It was an active day that didn't leave time for many pictures, but here are a few to give a small glimpse into the work that is being done this week:

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Back in the Saddle

My desk yesterday as I made final preparations for NJYPF

Preparations are just about done and this Sunday we begin rehearsals for the 32nd annual New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival. This is a program I have run for Playwrights Theatre since I started working there in 2002. For the past two months, I've communicated with the high school playwrights via email and phone, and finally had a chance to meet them in person at the NJ Governor's Awards for Arts Education on Wednesday. These four students have done a remarkable job not just crafting engaging stories, but also a pair of significant revisions using feedback from our contest readers and the festival dramaturgs. The first rewrite was a great way to assess the commitment to the process and willingness of the finalists to make changes to their work. The goal of the second rewrite under the guidance of a dramaturg, is to help jump start the playwrights into the rehearsal process.

The high school playwrights have always been directly involved in rehearsals, but this is only the second year implementing a pre-Festival routine (last year introduced the dramaturgs; this year, the finalist rewrites). A year prior, I noticed that only a handful of playwrights were actively participating in the program. There are a variety of reasons for this, of course, but it seemed that much of it had to do with the playwrights being thrown into rehearsals without any significant orientation. Seeing professionals work on your script can be exciting, but it can also be very intimidating. Hopefully we've alleviated some of that this year. I can't wait to begin working on the scripts tomorrow. What I can wait for is my new role in this year's program.

I've been directing portions of the Festival for many years, but this is the first time that I will perform in them. Festival scripts are often populated by youth, or young adult, characters; however, this year we were surprised that of the 13 total characters in the four high school plays, only five characters were young people. The majority of the actors that I typically hire for young playwrights presentations are in their early to mid-20s, so the challenge became finding the actors needed for the adult characters. We did well, but fell short to the point where a colleague and I will need to step into two roles. That's all well for my colleague who is a professional actor. For me, on the other hand, it is not a typical role. I've performed onstage before, but I haven't since the New Plays for Young Audiences Series in 2007. So, this should be interesting, to say the least!

This post was originally published on our Director of Education's personal website.

Friday, May 29, 2015

5 Questions with Laura Diorio

"5 Questions with a Playwright" concludes with Laura Diorio from Middletown High School South. We asked Laura to answer five questions about her play or about herself and here are her answers:
Laura Diorio
Middletown High School South

1. What inspired you to write Pretty Girl?

Pretty Girl was written with a generation in mind. I had never written a play before, so when I took this on, I knew I wanted it to mean something. The writing process was significantly influenced by different people. I questioned my friends about their beliefs on social beauty standards and experiences they've had. Some lines in the play are even direct quotes! My inspiration for this play was intended for both friends and strangers. My goal was to showcase the reality that young girls experience all of the time, presented in an honest and relatable setting. I wanted to be a voice for those who are too afraid to express how they feel. I wanted them to know that they are not alone, and everyone goes through what the sisters in the play experience. If I could have at least one person in the audience listen to my play and think, "Hey, she sounds just like me" or, "Wow, I've definitely felt like that before," or "Oh my god, she's absolutely right," then I have done what I set out to do.

2. You were also nominated for a Basie Award for Supporting Actress for a play at your school. Please tell us a little about that play and your role.

Kismine Washington was created by F. Scott Fitzgerald in one of his classic short stories "The Diamond as Big as The Ritz." My drama teacher, Mr. Kozak, took on this hundred year old story and adapted it into a full length drama, which we then performed as our fall play this year. I had the extraordinary privilege of playing Kismine alongside some of the most talented people and friends I will ever know. The experience I gained from this show is unparalleled to anything I have ever done. Taking on a show with characters that have never come to life and a story that has never reached a stage is a rare opportunity that I will forever cherish. To top it all off, I was recently nominated for Best Supporting Actress in the Basie Awards, hosted by Count Basie Theatre which honors excellence in high school theatre. The Diamond as Big as The Ritz won Best Overall Drama and Mr. Kozak won Best Director. To be recognized for such a beautiful role is an honor within itself, and I thank Mr. Kozak and my fellow cast members for bringing the world of Kismine and her unique family to life.

3. You mention in your bio that you’ve written and directed before. What role do you prefer to take in a production (actor, director, writer) and what do you like more about that role than the others?

At Middletown High School South, our theatre program gives students the opportunity to thrive in multiple aspects of the art, and challenges them to take on new experiences. I have gotten the chance to be an actor, a director, and a playwright in the three years I have been at South. I have performed in six shows at South thus far, and have been a writer and director for our One Page Play Festival in the fall and our Ten Page Play Festival in the spring, which are both student-produced. I have loved every second of writing and directing, but my heart lies with acting. Since I was young, I have possessed a strong passion for performance. It has made me increasingly self aware and also provoked me to gain a sense of empathy for others. Performing is an exercise of the mind, body, and heart, and that unique experience is incomparable and irreplaceable.

4. What has been your most memorable theatre experience to date?

I do not have one specific experience in theatre that matters more to me than another. My most memorable theatre experiences are the ones that happen behind closed curtains at South with my favorite people in the world. For me, it is not about the end product. It is about the adventurous process that my cast mates and I take to get there. Theatre is a path that has brought me to some of the greatest people I know, those who have impacted my life for the better. Because of these people, I embrace who I am, and I encourage others to do the same. Every cast is a family, and rehearsals are our quality time together. Sometimes we want to rip each other's hair out, other times we're laughing so hard while foolishly dancing to the YMCA before the start of every show. Because of theatre, the greatest success of all is working with a group to be real under imaginary circumstances. Accomplishing that is the most memorable experience of all.

5. If you could have any super-human power, what would it be, and why?

This was the hardest question of all. After two hours of pondering my options (I wish I was kidding), I have decided that my superpower would be the ability to enter any realm of literature. How cool would it be to jump into the story you're reading? But then... How would I get out? This is why this question took two hours to answer.

The 2015 New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival will take place on June 1st (Junior HS & Elementary plays) and June 2nd (High School plays) on the Florham campus of Fairleigh Dickinson University. You can use these links to make reservations for the June 1 or June 2 performances, or call the PTNJ Education office at 973-514-1787, ext. 21. The Festival is free; however, seating is extremely limited.