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!

1 comment:

  1. This performance was amazing! I was impressed with the talent of the actors and the young playwrights. Congrats to all!


Thank you for adding to the discussion! Please bear in mind that this is a site with a wide audience from young playwrights of all ages, to teachers, to theatre artists, and beyond. As a result, all comments will be moderated before posting. Thanks!