Yale Bulletin and Calendar

January 30, 2004|Volume 32, Number 16















Festival puts spotlight on new Yale playwrights

Six plays by promising young writers, who happen to be Yale undergraduates, will be presented as staged readings Friday and Saturday, Feb. 13 and 14, during the second annual Yale Playwrights Festival.

The idea for the festival was jointly conceived by Yale senior Laura Jacqmin and Toni Dorfman, associate professor (adjunct) and director of undergraduate studies in the Theater Studies Program. The former, who had several plays produced in her hometown of Cleveland during her teens, wanted to expand the opportunities available to undergraduate playwrights; the latter was impressed by the talents of the students in a playwright/director workshop she was teaching and wanted to offer them a showcase for their creative efforts.

"What moved me in the students' written work for class last year was its vulnerability, musicality, honesty, invention, characters whose voices seemed strange and strangely familiar at the same time, bold forms, energy, life and truth that leapt off the page," ays Dorfman. "During scene presentations, I would find myself laughing aloud, or in goose bumps or, from time to time, in tears -- during four-minute scenes, mind you."

For the inaugural festival last year, 22 plays were submitted and six were chosen. This year there were 30 submissions, and the six winning entries were chosen by judges Dorfman; renowned Off-Broadway director Connie Grappo, who will direct the world premiere of "The Mystery Plays" by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa at the Yale Repertory Theatre in April; and Deborah Margolin, lecturer in theater studies.

According to Dorfman, the criterion for choosing the scripts is: "They need to be far enough along to benefit from the lessons a live reading in front of an audience could give, but not so far along the plays were ready for a full production."

The student playwrights are assigned an "inside" mentor, someone from Yale or New Haven, and an "outside" mentor, a working playwright or director, explains Dorfman.

"The emphasis is on process. And here the role of mentors is essential," she says. "The mentors' job is to read the scripts and then pose to the writers a few simple but profound questions. Each play is different; each script is finding a unique shape to grow into. For five to six weeks, the writer cogitates, revises, puts away the script, cogitates and revises -- until the festival."

The plays are directed and acted by Yale students. After the readings, audience members are invited to talk about their responses to the work with the playwright, director and mentors. Later, the playwrights and mentors meet one-on-one to discuss how the readings went and what the writers learned about their scripts.

Last year's festival brought about good results for the young playwrights, notes Dorfman. Among the audience members was producer Scott Morfee, who subsequently hosted readings of three of the works in his theater in New York. Rosana Garcia '03, whose "Nothing If He Can't Lie" debuted last year, was invited by mentor Arthur Kopit to attend his professional playwriting group at the Lark Theater in New York. "The Salmon Play" by Liz Meriwether '04 (who is also participating in this year's festival) was chosen by two Yale alumni -- producer Sam Lazarus '02 and director Katie Robbins '02 -- for development, and had a backer's audition last summer in New York.

Expectations are also running high for this year's festival, says Dorfman, who notes "once again there is a flabbergastingly illustrious list of mentors," which includes three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee ("A Delicate Balance," "Seascape" and "Three Tall Women").

The readings will take place in the Yale Repertory Theatre, corner of Chapel and York. All are free and open to the public.

The schedule of plays and the list of mentors follows.

Friday, Feb. 13

1 p.m. -- "Speak Easy Havana" by Jocelyn Lipper '04, directed by Lisa Sciliano '05. Mentors: Carlos Eire, the T. Lawrason Riggs Professor of Religious Studies and History; Connie Grappo.

4 p.m. -- "Mary Beth" by Matt Kirsch '04, directed by Matteo Borghese '04. Mentors: Joseph Roach, professor of English and of African American Studies, and the Charles C. and Dorathea S. Dilley Professor of Theater; Edwin Sanchez '94 ("Barefoot Boy with Shoes on").

8:30 p.m. -- "Our Broken Heads Together" by Patrick Huguenin '06, directed by Satya Bhabha '05. Mentors: Milton Justice, lecturer in theater studies; Edward Albee.

Saturday, Feb. 14

1 p.m. -- "Iggy & Tom: The Going Away Party" by Kendrick Strauch '05, directed by Laura Jacqmin '04. Mentors: Cheever Tyler, New Haven attorney and filmmaker; Margaret Hunt ("Maginot Line").

3:30 p.m. -- "The Reckoning" by Zoe Kazan '05, directed by Ben Evans '05. Mentors: Deborah Margolin; Constance Congdon ("Tales of the Last Formicans").

7:30 p.m. -- "Nicky Goes Goth" by Liz Meriwether, directed by Shira Milikowsky '03. Mentors: Rolin Jones, an M.F.A. student at the School of Drama; Keith Bunin ("The World Over").


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