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.