Quinnipiac University College of Arts and Sciences

2014 New Play Festival

In Event, Students on February 20, 2014 at 1:25 pm

theater

By Drew Scott, Adjunct Professor of Theatre

How often do beginning playwrights get the chance to have their first plays produced in New York at an Off-Broadway theatre? At least once a year if they are Quinnipiac students taking part in Theater for Community’s New Play Festival.

This year Theater for Community in partnership with Abingdon Theatre, a professional Off-Broadway theatre dedicated to developing and producing new plays by American playwrights, is launching an exciting endeavor for students, its first annual New Play Festival! The festival will be comprised entirely of plays written, directed, and performed by Quinnipiac students. For this first festival, seven original ten-minute plays have been chosen to be performed at Abingdon. As all the plays are set in a diner, the festival is being billed as The 2014 New Play Festival: The Diner Plays. The playwrights and plays which will be presented are Samantha Chasse, Emma; Marina Dugan, Diner of Eden; Yara Farahmand, Love At Corner Diner; Steph Fasano, Count; Alan Johnson, Three Musketeers; Jessica Lehman, The Lives We Lead; and David Piselli, Apocalypse Tonight.

Theater for Community’s relationship with Abingdon Theatre began four years ago. Over that space of time, Abingdon has offered Quinnipiac students a wide range of workshops including playwriting, acting, improvisation, auditioning, stage management and lighting design. Abingdon has also provided internships for Quinnipiac students, the invaluable experience off working with New York professionals in an Off-Broadway theatre, and now, the first annual New Play Festival.

Work on the festival began last September when more than twenty interested students met with playwrighting mentor J.E. Phelan and directing mentors Jessica Creane and Michael Hardart from Abingdon Theatre. The professionals and the students brainstormed and came up with a common theme (characters forced to make a decision) and a common location (a diner) which the student  playwrights have incorporate into their scripts.

Phelan, Creane, Hardart, and a second playwrighting mentor from Abingdon, David McGee, met with students each month throughout the fall lending their expertise to mentor and guide the students in the craft of writing a play and in directing and stage managing new plays. Then, in December, more than thirty hopeful student playwrights submitted scripts, and a month later, after close reading, careful consideration and discussion, Abingdon selected the seven scripts listed above to be produced in the festival.

The first week of the Spring Semester the student directors held auditions while the student playwrights held their breath in repressed excitement and anticipation to hear and see their characters come to life as more than fifty actors, all eager to be part of the festival, spoke their lines for the first time. The shows are all cast now, rehearsals are under way, and on February 27 the students will trek to New York for two full days of technical and dress rehearsals on stage at Abingdon where they will meet with professional set designer Andrew Lu and professional lighting designer Molly Tiede to discuss production values, implement final design decisions, adjust the staging, tweak the blocking, and polish the performances. Finally, on March 1st, a full year of planning, preparation, workshops, and rehearsals will culminate in two performances at 2 and 7 p.m. in Abingdon’s June Havoc Theatre (312 West 36th Street).

The New Play Festival is one more way in which Theater for Community continues its commitment to train students through “hands-on” experience in all facets of theater (including acting, directing, playwrighting, design/tech, producing and stage management), assist students to gain real-world experience, and, perhaps more importantly, develop a stronger, more confident sense of who they are and their potential.

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