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"New Visions, New Voices" Announces Exciting Changes

Plays in this year's lineup showcase the talents of seven Meadows playwrights

Katrina Leshan (B.M. '13 - Classical Guitar & Music Education)
Seven playwrights. Seven plays. Twelve days. This is the plan for the 2011 New Visions, New Voices, a playwriting festival held each spring at the Meadows School of the Arts, featuring works written, directed, and acted by Meadows’ Division of Theatre students. This year’s festival takes place March 1-11 at the Margo Jones Theatre. (Click here for a complete schedule)

Dr. Gretchen Smith, associate professor and head of theatre studies, is more excited about New Visions, New Voices (NVNV) than ever. In the 17 years of its existence, the playwriting festival has never been quite like this. Spring 2011 is the first time that each of the graduating seniors in Gretchen’s playwriting class will have his or her play premiered, as opposed to the normal selection of three plays. “I found it hard to choose just two or three plays,” Gretchen said. “Each of my students is talented and has something important to say. This year, I am very pleased with all seven of the works. I’m thrilled that each of them will be shared!” Playwrights include Meredith Alloway, Jessica Andrewartha, Nick Cains, Micah Figueroa, Nat French, Audrey Gab and Joel Heinrich.

The fact that seven works are performed this year is not the only change for NVNV. Each work will be a staged reading instead of a fully produced show. This means that the typical audience member will be surprised to see no costumes and no scenery; additionally, the actors will be performing with scripts in hand, because the playwrights have been writing and rewriting up until opening night. “Everything,” Gretchen says, “will be raw, minimal, and exciting.”

This year, the cast of NVNV is made up of 25 theatre students, ranging from freshmen to graduate students, and each student will be in two different plays. Acting alongside the students are two professional actors from the DFW area and two faculty members. Guest actors include Michael Federico* (Kitchen Dog Theater), Jen Spillane* (Dallas Children’s Theater), Leslie Brott (SMU Assistant Professor, Utah Shakespeare Festival, etc.) and Bill Lengfelder (SMU Professor, Kitchen Dog Theater).

After each play there will be a talk in which the audience will give feedback to the playwright. “Our students are hoping to write professionally,” Gretchen says, “so this could be really helpful for them. We will have a diverse audience. We want to know what each of them thinks about the plays.” Gretchen also notes that this opportunity will help students realize that while they are writing for actors, directors and themselves, they are also writing for the audience. Through discussions with the audience members, Gretchen says the playwrights will learn how they are developing their craft. “People will find something they like in every play,” she says.

In addition to guest actors, this year’s festival also includes several guest directors - Sara Romersberger (SMU Associate Professor), Cameron Cobb* (Undermain Theatre, Kitchen Dog Theater), René Moreno (Kitchen Dog Theater, Contemporary Theatre, and Wingspan Theatre) and Pam Myers-Morgan (Echo Theatre). Student directors are Aneesha Kudtarkar (B.F.A. '12), Alia Tavakolian (B.F.A. '12) and Gus Deardoff (B.F.A. '11).

*previous NVNV playwrights

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