Thursday, June 5, 2008

Festival Recap – Performance Day 2


High School readings
We presented four very strong plays during the High School performance:
- Impression: Sunrise by Ben Muzi
- Treading Water by Kate Douglas
- Sorry, Allie by Bennett Kirschner
- The Moodring Monologues by Julie A. Earls

It is always interesting to witness the first performance of a play with an audience present. A director guides a play with a vision of how to present the story and all of its intricacies. Blocking, technical aspects, and every detail are approached with an idea of how the audience will or should perceive them. The thing is that you just never know how an audience will react until they are there experiencing the piece. This is an excellent experience for the writer as each laugh, breath, and silence from the audience informs the playwright about each of those moments in the play. The audience’s engagement with each of these plays was strong and clear and was very exciting to observe.

As with the readings on Monday, the high school playwrights and their schools were presented with certificates to mark the achievement. We also presented an Honorable Mention to Brianna Delfs for her play Some People Never Go Crazy (What Truly Horrible Lives They Must Lead).

High school playwrights and some of the cast.

The directors of the high school plays forwarded me the following words of congrats and advice to the playwrights whose work they directed:

“Congratulations to all the young playwrights on a job well done! To Bennett and Julie -It was a thrill to take part in the process that brought your creative work to life. Keep writing! Big smiles,” - Dania Ramos

“I had a great time working on the high school scripts. The plays were well-written, complex and explored some very interesting subjects. I was excited by the talent I saw, and encourage all the writers to keep working and honing your craft. You will be the voice of the next generation of theatrical artists. Fine job!”
– Jim Ligon

Congratulations again to all 13 winners of the NJ Young Playwrights Contest. We hope you will continue writing and look forward to seeing your work in the years to come.

And to all young playwrights out there… keep writing! The Contest will begin again in the fall. The submission deadline and guidelines will be available in early October at our website – - and on this blog. In the meantime please keep coming back to this site for playwriting advice and information. We hope to have reflections on the Festival from playwrights, performers, and crew as well as playwriting tips and exercises from many of our teaching artists and staff. So, come on back and see us then!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Festival Recap - Performance Day 1

MONDAY, May 19

The Festival moved from Playwrights Theatre to Kean University in Union, NJ. Premiere Stages and Kean University provided space in the Little Theatre located inside the University Center. This was the first time that many of us saw the space and we were all very pleased it. The Little Theatre is much smaller than the enormous Wilkins Theatre where the Festival was held in the past. However, the Little Theatre provided a more personal setting with the audience seated closer to the action. The directors, crew, and cast had a wonderful time working in such an intimate environment.

Junior High School / Elementary School readings
A company of seven actors and one director (Stephen Davis, a teaching artist with Playwrights Theatre and adjunct professor at Kean) presented the eight plays of the Junior High School and Elementary School divisions as a reading. In this format, the actors read from scripts placed on music stands, which also display the character name and a brief description of the character played by the actor at that stand. (You can get a sense of how things were set up from the pictures included in this entry.) The reading structure is certainly not the picture that a young playwright has in his/her mind when writing the play. However, we find that presenting the work in this format allows the story to maintain the focus of the event and brings the audience to use their imagination to fill in the gaps – much like a storyteller’s performance.

The stage being prepared.

Each actor took part in nearly every play of the reading. Playing a variety of characters in such a short period of time is not easy, especially while using only small props and costume pieces – glasses, hats, and a few props – to indicate something about the character’s physical presence. The actors’ vocal and physical performance and the audience’s imagination filled in the rest. There were a number of complements from the audience on how seamlessly and effectively the cast achieved this task.

Junior High and Elementary playwrights and cast.

The playwrights and representatives from their school were presented with certificates to mark their achievement. The cast signed the display cards that were used during the reading to announce the title of each play and these were given to the playwrights, too.

High School tech rehearsal
After a quick lunch break, the High School casts and playwrights took the stage to work through a brief tech rehearsal. In a staged reading like this, the stands are removed and the actors perform blocking and use a few props. There are more technical aspects like light and sound, but the actors use their scripts and the setting is largely indicated. This technique provides more of the playwright’s original vision while still maintaining the story at the forefront, like in the Junior HS and Elementary reading.

There was enough time in the afternoon for a tech rehearsal and another run-through in a separate space – a last opportunity to work with rewrites and polish certain aspects before Tuesday’s presentation!