Friday, May 27, 2011

Wrapping up the Festival

The 28th installment of the New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival has come to a close. Finally I have some time to sit down and blog about the experience of the two performance dates. Unfortunately, my picture taking this year was a little shaky and I’m not sure what photos can actually be used. If any can be posted, we’ll put them up right away.

Monday, May 23
The day began before 9:00 am as we moved in to the University Center Little Theatre on the campus of Kean University. The crew from Kean had the stage set for us, so there was little prep work to be done in the theatre, giving plenty of time to wrap up some paperwork and to get the playwrights’ certificates in order.

At 10:00 am, we presented the six winning scripts in the Junior HS and Elementary divisions as a reading with the actors at music stands. The readings beginning with There’s Nothing to Do! by Finn Gannon, then Winter Sun by Rachel Skerker. The Easy World by Elizabeth Kilgore and Cellar Door by Ryan Kelly followed that and Mozart’s Silhouette by Joy Ho and The Wizard’s Candy by Caroline Hoerrner rounded out the morning presentation. Immediately following the performance, the playwrights and a representative from their schools were called to the stage and certificates were presented to the six winning playwrights. Two students also received an Honorable Mention for their work: Casey Murphy in the Junior HS division for her play, Time is Fleeting, and Emma Baxter in the Elementary division for her play, Race.

Following the morning performance, the Festival cast and crew took a long lunch break and returned to the Little Theatre at 1:30 to begin tech for the high school performances. First, we walked through the beginning and end of the two Honorable Mention readings to give the actors and the production staff a sense of how the Tuesday performance would begin. This was followed by a review of cues for the first pair of plays – For the Sake of America: A Story of Patriotism by Sam Gelman and Yesterday by Michelle Cherpika – and a run though of each of those scripts. These two plays were very concise in their storytelling and required very little sound or lighting effects. As the director of these plays I appreciated that this allowed us to use time typically spent figuring out the technical needs by instead using the time to explore the character relationships and plot in more detail. Once our tech was finished, the second group, who had been rehearsing in another room, moved in to the theatre. This group included the plays The Prologue to After by Jenna Postiglione and Wacky Wednesday by Justine DeSilva which required more technical elements than the previous plays given some of the “magic” (both literal and figurative) that occurs in each. While the second group held tech, my group had time to review what had just been done in tech and to go through the Honorable Mention reading.

Tuesday, May 24
The day of the high school performances began with the reading of Writer’s Iris by Molly Kirschner and Happy Days by Lacey Davies, both Honorable Mention recipients. In order to maintain a consistent flow to the performance, these readings were followed immediately by the other four plays with only brief pauses in between to reset the scenery as needed. Since the high school pairings are directed simultaneously by two separate casts and directors, the Tuesday performance was the first time I had to see and hear the other two plays since our first read through together on Saturday. It is amazing to see how different a play can be when it is brought to life in performance. Each of the playwrights also made some excellent revisions to their work throughout the rehearsal weekend and the combination of the actors’ and playwrights’ work resulted in an afternoon of well-constructed and provocative stories.

Tuesday ended early when compared to Monday’s schedule, so it seemed that we were on our way out of the Little Theatre almost as quickly as we had loaded in. But the brevity of the moment stands in stark contrast to the effect that the Festival had, and will continue to have, on everyone involved.

Certainly the playwrights and creative staff learned a lot throughout the process – many of them expressed as much to me throughout the weekend. I also heard from a number of parents, teachers, and audience members who were moved by the experiences on both days. That is a strong testament to the excellent work crafted by our Festival playwrights.

The imagination is a powerful tool and we encourage each of our playwrights to continue to use that tool to explore their world and to share it with the larger community whether through a future Festival, or in their schools, or however possible. Thank you again to the playwrights for sharing their work with us. It was a privilege to share in your vision and to produce it for the public. We wish you all the best.

Happy writing!

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