Friday, June 20, 2008

Day 5 – Coming together

Daily Reporting on the Second Stage Theatre New Works Festival featuring plays from the Time Warner Play Commissioning Program by Laura Hedli

Friday showcased the week’s readings with a culminating presentation on 2ST’s mainstage. John Partilla, President of Time Warner Global Media Group, and Daniel J. Osheyack, Vice President of Time Warner Philanthropic Initiatives, spoke about the commitment that their corporation has to fostering new artists in the entertainment industry. Following their remarks, brief excerpts were presented from each of the eight readings. Lynn Nottage, who’s first play Crumbs from the Table of Joy, was commissioned by Second Stage Theatre, spoke about the play she is currently writing for this commission and then introduced Carole Rothman, Artistic Director of Second Stage. Rothman conluded the afternoon’s event by explaining what it takes to put on a festival of this magnitude and thanking all those who made it such a success.

So what are the actors saying?

“I just love and appreciate new works—I think that is our future. Renditions of old classical plays are great to bring back, but new voices, new opinions, and new thoughts are much, much neater. To be a part of this is something special. And here we have the cream of the crop, and the cream of the crop is teaching the next generation that’s come to be a cast member or audience member in this process. Any little bit that I can be involved with, or be a part of, I’m happy to do.”
– Erik LaRay Harvey from Sung Rno’s Happy

“I became involved with this about six months ago. We did a really rough reading of the script, As Soon as Impossible. We were just downstairs in the lobby. I was so interested in the part, and I thought the play was great. Then to do this—this was sort of the next thing. I don’t think I even realized how big of a deal this was. I sort of can’t wait to hear the excerpts of everything. It was so wonderful to see all these playwrights because there aren’t so many venues for them to display their new work. And then to have these really great directors and great actors take their time to do this is wonderful because it lets them hear their work and maybe visualize that next step. I’m just thrilled to be a part of it. I hope it continues. To be able to share your work with other playwrights and actors and directors, that sense of collaboration comes even before you actually produce the play.”
–Tala Ashe from Betty Shamieh’s As Soon as Impossible

“I’m doing Animals Out of Paper with Rajiv Joseph, and it’s great to be able to play an Indian character. I’m glad that the festival is opening itself up to different ethnicities and really trying to stretch its boundaries. To be able to play a character so close to an Indian hip-hopper, that doesn’t really happen, ever.”
–Utkarsh Ambudkar from Rajiv Joseph’s Animals Out of Paper

“I think it’s very important that they have this festival—to have people know who the new playwrights are, and the quality of their work. The only thing is, there are only 5 minutes of the pieces presented, and I wish it was a little bit more so the people could really see the meat of the show. I don’t know how much you can get in five minutes, but I really think it’s a great, great idea. I’m doing Wash Your Rabbit by Cheryl West, and I’ve always wanted to do one of her pieces. It’s just really a joy. I only became involved two days ago, we just had a reading of it yesterday, and here we are today. The best is yet to come.”
–Ann Duquesnay from Cheryl L. West’s Wash Your Rabbit


After documenting a week replete with new works and fresh talent, I’ll leave you with a quote from playwright, Anthony Neilson. In an article written for The Guardian, Neilson examines the precarious state that theater faces with the dawn of so many other recreational outlets and a dwindling number of ticket sales (for straight plays at least). He seeks to give some advice to young playwrights, and this is what he concludes:

“The spectacle we can offer is the spectacle of imagination in flight. I've heard audiences gasp at turns of plot, at a location conjured by actors, at the shock of a truth being spoken, at the audacity of a moment. There is nothing more magical and nothing - nothing - less boring.”

Congratulations, J, Sandra, Zakiyyah, Betty, Sung, Tracey, Rajiv and Cheryl. After having attended each and every one of your readings, I feel confident in saying that, with you, the state of the stage is looking up … our theater is in good hands.

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