Friday, May 29, 2009

High School Reading

On Tuesday, May 19th, we staged the four plays from the High School Division (photos from the tech rehearsal can be found a few posts below this one). As a staged-reading, the actors still performed with a script in hand, but we were able to add some blocking and minimal production details like sound and lights to give a sense of what the play might be like on stage. The tech staff at Kean was great and really gave us a lot to work with in a very little amount of time.

I spoke with the playwrights after the performance and it sounded like they came away from the show with a few new ideas about the piece, and perhaps some inspiration for a new play down the line. I've asked them to write about their experience in the Festival and I hope to have those pieces on the blog during the summer. So stay tuned!

Here are some pictures of the playwrights and cast after the performance:

(From l - r) Tyler McGuckin, Jennifer Woods, Ben Muzi, and Samantha Berstler.

Playwrights and casts.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Junior HS and Elementary Reading

The Festival performances began on Monday, May 18 with a reading of the plays from the Junior HS and Elementary School Divisions - 8 plays in total! As a reading, the actors performed with their scripts on stands at the front of the stage. Costume pieces like hats, or glasses, and some props were used to indicate locations, or other important bits of information. Presenting plays in a format like this allows the audience to imagine the look of the story while placing the script itself into the spotlight. I think it makes for a much more personal experience for each audience member.

These eight plays were terrific! The audience laughed a lot and applauded a great deal. At the end of the reading, we presented certificates to the thirteen playwrights (three of the plays were written by a duo or trio!) and a representative from each school. Here are some pictures of the playwrights...

Elementary School playwrights (grades 4-6)

Junior HS playwrights (grades 7-9)

Junior HS playwrights and the cast.

Congratulations again to all of the playwrights!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tech Rehearsal Photos

Here are some pictures from the high school division tech rehearsals on Monday afternoon.

'TIL DEATH DO US PART by Jennifer Woods

Tara Henderson as Madison and Jonathan Silver as Caleb.

SUITCASE by Tyler McGuckin

Scott Morales as O'Connell and Jonathan Silver as Cohen.
(That first picture is of O'Connell attacking Cohen. Blurry, but a neat picture.)

REQUIEM by Samantha Berstler

(l - r) Alannah Potter as Hero, Paul Reisman as Man, and Jack Moran as Poet.

ABOUT TO POP! by Ben Muzi
(l - r) Jeff Ronan as Andy, Jane Keitel as Miss Henderson, and Jack Moran as Mr. Jones.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Day Two Photos

Some pictures from rehearsal on Sunday morning...

Jack Moran (left) and Paul Reisman (right) rehearse a scene from Requiem.

Alannah Potter and Jack Moran rehearse Requiem.

Stephen Davis and Tyler McGuckin watch rehearsal of Tyler's play, Suitcase.
Jonathan Silver (left) and Scott Morales (right) rehearse Suitcase.

Pictures from tech posted tomorrow!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Day Two Rehearsal - Jim Ligon, Director

9:30 AM! Who rehearses at 9:30am on a Sunday? We do!!

Very productive day two rehearsal sessions.

Got the new script from Samantha (excellent re-working of the doctor scene) and staged Requiem in the morning session. New version runs about 20 minutes or so. Some complicated staging required, but the actors were quite good at making it look easy and natural after a few run-throughs. Sam told us about all the research she's done on persecution in totalitarian states and how she was inspired by that research to write the play. Also - gave us all a pronunciation lesson in Latin! :-)

Lunch - Ziti ala DeVivo!

In the afternoon session we finished staging About to Pop, and then ran through it a few times. Some great comic bits grew out of the session. Next prom -- everybody dresses in black!

- - - - -

In the staging of "script-in-hand" readings like this, the emphasis should be on the author and his/her work. It's important for the audience to get a feel for what the play might look like physically staged, but it's more important for them to hear the words and feel the power of the language. That's why we create the physical world with as few impediments to the script as we can, but still try to establish a sense of space, time and character. The actors are all quite good at this and that makes the process that much easier. Looking forward to tech and the performance on Tuesday.

Day One Photos

Here are some pictures from the read thrus of the high school plays on May 16th. Captions are below each picture.

Ben Muzi (center), author of About to Pop!, listens to the read-thru of his play.
Also pictured are (at left) Jim Ligon, director, and actors Jack Moran (right) and Alannah Potter (back to camera).

Jeff Ronan (center) plays Andy, the main character in About to Pop!

Stephen Davis gives direction to actors Jonathan Silver and Tara Henderson (foreground),
as Jennifer Woods, author of 'Til Death Do Us Part, looks on.

Samantha Berstler, author of Requiem, discusses her play with director, Jim Ligon (far right) and Alannah Potter.
More pictures to follow.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Day One Rehearsal - Jim Ligon, Director

Read through the two plays I'm directing today. Requiem by Samantha Berstler, and About to Pop by Ben Muzi. Also, was able to stage most of About to Pop. (Thanks to all the actors for following my lightening fast blocking notes and staying on top of it all.)

I love this stuff. Working with new writers, fresh ideas and different voices. Requiem is a very mature and complicated play about a young woman's visions of the torture of a dissident poet in a totalitarian state. At the other end of the theatrical spectrum is the satirical comedy, About to Pop, about a HS senior whose collage poetry project is mistakenly thought to be a warning sign of an imminent emotional breakdown, when in reality it's just about getting ready to leave HS for college. It's wickedly funny.

Both Ben and Samantha were nervous, hearing their work read for the first time today! After hearing the plays read aloud, Samantha was inspired to head back to the computer and make some line changes and some minor restructuring. We anticipate a new script tomorrow morning from her! I caught Ben laughing at his piece, out of the corner of my eye, as we were staging it. He left today's session with a few suggestions to punch up some jokes, and maybe consider a few line changes for clarity's sake.

I'm glad to be collaborating with two very intelligent and creative writers. Looking forward to seeing it all on it's feet, as well as the other two plays in the HS festival.

Rehearsal begins today

We're only half an hour away from the first rehearsal of the NJ Young Playwrights Festival 2009. I'm stealing a moment from my last minute preparations to invite you to check back regularly as members of the Festival production team may be posting throughout the rehearsal process. Check back soon!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Reservations required

There is still time to make a reservation for the NJ Young Playwrights Festival on either date (or both):

- May 18 @ 10:00 am - a reading of the Junior HS/Elementary plays
- May 19 @ 10:00 am - a staged-reading of the High School plays

Space is limited for both sessions, so please call as soon as possible if you wish to attend. Let your friends and family know!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Casting Complete

Earlier this week I hired the last actor for the Festival, so our cast is now complete. This is a versitile group of performers with a strong group of plays, so I'm looking forward to getting started next Saturday, May 16th with the read-through rehearsals.

The scripts were sent to the actors yesterday and I've already begun to hear about their excitement to perform. I've read each of the 12 plays to be presented at the Festival a couple of times and am anxious to see how they transform. It is quite one thing to read a play and imagine how the story might be staged. As a playwright myself I find there is so much more to the play than I ever intended once a group of actors and a director get a hold of the play and put their own ideas into it.

We're eight days from rehearsal. Keep your eyes open for more posts as we get closer. I'll also keep you updates of the day's events once we get started.