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First Look at New Visions, New Voices 2014

Meadows students and playwrights Tom Valentine Gelo (B.F.A. Theatre, B.A. Film, ’14) and Carson McCain (B.F.A. Theatre, ’14) introduce their New Visions, New Voices works

by Ally Van Deuren (B.F.A. Theatre, B.A. Journalism, ’15)

New Visions, New Voices, an annual spring playwriting festival, celebrates its 20th season this year. This year, New Visions, New Voices will feature full-length plays written by nine senior playwriting students. Directors include guest artists, faculty, alumni and current students. SMU Associate Professor and Head of Theatre Studies Gretchen Smith heads up the project. The shows run in the Greer Garson Theatre from March 21 to 29, 2014. Admission is free.

A word with Tom Valentine Gelo (B.F.A. Theatre, B.A. Film, ’14), playwright of “Mutations” in New Visions, New Voices.

New Vision New Voices 2014 - Tom Gelo

Ally Van Deuren: First and foremost, what is your play, Mutations, about?

Tom Valentine Gelo: Mutations is a dark comedy about millennial families. The play explores the pitfalls of suburban America and the half-life of the nuclear family.

High school valedictorian August Camden is living in the shadow of a successful father, a burnout brother, a stepmother just ten years older than himself, and he discovers that the road to the "American Dream" is filled with potholes.

AVD: What was your inspiration for the play?

TG: My inspiration stems from a number of places. Growing up I had a lot of friends with plans, dreams, goals, etc. that were never acted upon. The majority of those kids either still live with their parents, or live in their hometowns, working minimum wage jobs with no future plans. I was curious as to the socio-economic forces that encourage this lifestyle, especially in the cases in which the kids were not restricted financially. When I was introduced to Chekov, particularly The Seagull and Three Sisters, I felt that the themes carried over to my generation in interesting ways. I wanted to explore this connection with Mutations.

AVD: How has this process been so far?

TG: Incredible. Of course, we have the wonderful support and knowledge of a professor like Dr. Smith. It is really inspiring to see your work take root in a group of talented theatre artists like the actors and directors we've been assigned. It's amazing to have access to a talent pool like that as an outlet for your writing.

AVD: When did you first get interested in playwriting?

TG: I've always been interested in creative writing. I was that kid in middle school English classes who would write narratives in his journal rather than the assigned daily topic. When I got to high school, I wrote skits and dialogue for the talent show, and even wrote a full-length play that will hopefully never surface.

AVD: What are your plans for the future of Mutations?

TG: I hope to submit "Mutations" to national and international competitions and festivals. It would be great to some day see it as a full production. In terms of other projects, I'm about five chapters into a novel that I hope to self-publish by the end of the year.

A word with Carson McCain (B.F.A. Theatre, ’14), playwright of Implications of a Mix CD in New Visions, New Voices.

New Vision New Voices 2014 - Carson McCain

Ally Van Deuren: What is your play, "Implications of a Mix CD" about?

Carson McCain: My play is about a girl named Reina, the boys in her life, and their feelings of love, and the purpose of Mix CDs, and how a bunch of things can exist before we ever have the words for them.

AVD: What was your inspiration for the play?

CM: I was inspired by the truths I have seen in my life and the lives of the women I grew up with who found themselves defined by who loved them or who they thought they loved. I wanted to write about the struggle for identity, while everyone is telling you what you should do. I was inspired by my complete hatred for the HBO show Girls and wanted to engage with the problems that I see young people having, in a true way.

AVD: How has this process been so far?

CM: It's been in the works since I wrote my very first ten-minute scene in my junior playwriting class. The scene I wrote ended up being the second scene of my play. I enjoyed these characters and wanted to see them grow! Rehearsals have been great to observe and incredibly challenging as a playwright. I have had to really deal with the problems of my script that I thought could be overlooked. It's been rewarding to watch the results of my work, though tough to realize that I can't be as perfect as I want to be.

AVD: When did you first get interested in playwriting?

CM: I didn't think I would be interested in playwriting until I took this class junior year. Because we were literally creating from scratch, and actively silencing our inner editor, I felt more like an artist than I had in any other class. I felt like I was able to get my hands dirty in a way that I hadn't before. I had full control over what was going to be said, and it was inspiring to me in all other aspects of my creative life.

AVD: What are your plans for the future of your play?

CM: I am planning to submit this particular play to several development festivals in the future. More than that, the New Visions, New Voices process has confirmed for me a passion for new work by upcoming playwrights. As a director and an actor, I hope to participate in developing scripts at stages like these reading, and in workshops, and new play festivals.

To see what’s coming up for SMU Meadows Theatre, check out the Meadows School of the Arts Theatre homepage.

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