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A Second Look at New Visions, New Voices 2014

Meadows students and playwrights Sarah Hamilton (B.F.A. Theatre, ’14) and Kristen Kelso (B.F.A. Theatre, B.A. Spanish, ’14) introduce their New Visions, New Voices works

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

The 20th season of Meadows’ annual New Visions, New Voices spring playwriting festival is about to open. Showing at the Greer Garson Theatre March 21-29, New Visions, New Voices features full-length plays written by nine senior playwriting students and directed by guest artists, alumni, faculty and current students. New Visions, New Voices is guided by Associate Professor and Head of Theatre Studies Gretchen Smith. Admission is free.

In part two of our look at this year’s playwrights, we talk with students Sarah Hamilton (B.F.A. Theatre, ’14) and Kristen Kelso (B.F.A. Theatre, B.A. Spanish, ’14).

A word with Sarah Hamilton, playwright of How To Cook for One Person; New Visions, New Voices, Sunday, March 23, 2014 at 2 p.m.

New Visions, New Voices - Second Look - Sarah Hamilton

Ally Van Deuren: What is your play, How to Cook for One Person, about?

Sarah Hamilton: The main character of my play is Faye and she’s 65 years old. She’s lived in Tyler Town, Mississippi, all her life. She was married to the pastor of the First Baptist Church but he has just passed away. In his absence, she is faced with the realization that she doesn’t really have anyone to take care of her.

AVD: Where did you gather inspiration for writing the play? Is it part of something that you have been writing for a long time?

SH: I had this idea at the beginning of last semester. My grandmother is the wife of a pastor from a very small town. She’s not like Faye at all, but something that has always interested me is the religious suffocation that sometimes happens in small Southern towns and this plight of being a woman. My original thought was: What would happen if my grandmother didn’t believe in God anymore? Instead of having that loss of God, it became the loss of meaning in her life, which is kind of the same thing when you think about it.

AVD: Are you from a small town?

SH: I am from Traveler’s Rest, South Carolina, population 4,000 people. It is not quite as small as the one in my play or my grandmother’s town. I escaped some of the small town-isms because it’s only about 20 minutes outside of Greenville, which is one of the big urban centers in South Carolina. This play is very personal to me.

AVD: How has the process of New Visions, New Voices been so far?

SH: I was there for the first two weeks and it was really great! I’m not one of those people who write compulsively or write very easily, so revisions are so hard for me. As I would hear people working on scenes in rehearsals, it was a lot easier for me to rewrite. After [the actors] worked through the play, I’ve gone back and rewritten the whole play so it’s really different now from when it started. My actors are so great and I’m just so impressed with them. I am so glad Jenna Hannum [B.F.A. Theatre, ‘15] is directing the play because she is from a small town in Texas and she gets this stuff!

AVD: Did you always know you wanted to be a playwright?

SH: No! I took this class because Gretchen convinced me to take it! But, playwriting has become one of the classes that I appreciate the most. I am so grateful that Gretchen didn’t listen to me when I told her that I didn’t want to take it! It’s good to write because it makes you more articulate and it makes you think and be more specific. It’s hard and it’s good to try to do something that’s hard. I enjoy playwriting but I don’t consider myself a playwright at all, by any means.

AVD: Where do you see this play going after New Visions, New Voices?

SH: After New Visions, New Voices, I think I would still want to keep workshopping it before sending it out as a finished thing. Gretchen spoke about doing a reading or workshop somewhere in South Carolina and that might happen. There are still a lot of things left to work on before I think it should be fully produced.

Don’t miss “How to Cook for One Person” on Sunday, March 23, 2014 at 2 p.m. Hamilton will also direct “This” as part of the Rep series in April in the Margo Jones Theatre.

A word with Kristen Kelso, playwright of La Lluvia; New Visions, New Voices, Sunday, March 22, 2014 at 8 p.m.

New Visions, New Voices - Second Look - Kristen Kelso

Ally Van Deuren: What is your play La Lluvia about?

Kristen Kelso: It’s about a woman called Mujer, which means “woman” in Spanish, and the play shows her from 11 to 25 years old. She grows up in a household where her mother is a healer and her father tries to squash that. She struggles to harness these gifts that she has in spite of her father. The main plot is between Man and Mujer and the life they build together. It’s about magic and where you can find magic in everyday life. Magic is a child being born, or it’s love, or it’s connecting somebody or it’s escaping something.

AVD: Where did you get the inspiration to write the play?

KK: Two and a half years ago, I was studying in Costa Rica and I was sitting in my host family’s house. It was pouring down rain and we had a tin roof. I was sitting there listening to this torrential rain and just started writing. I had this image of this woman collecting the rain to get something from it because it was healing. I wrote one scene for my junior playwriting class. This year I decided to bring it all about and make a whole play about it.

AVD: Did you always know you wanted to write plays when you came to SMU?

KK: I knew that I had the opportunity, which really excited me. As a little girl, I loved writing. I would write poems and short stories. I dabbled in it, but I never imagined myself writing a full-length play.

AVD: Where do you see your play going after New Visions, New Voices?

KK: I know this is not the end of it. I don’t think I’ve finished it by any means, but I think the story is in a good place for this workshop. I really want to take it someplace else.

AVD: How has the process been so far?

KK: The first rehearsal, I couldn’t breathe. It was really good to hear [the play] out loud for the first time, and then to hear [the actors’] feedback and what they were confused about. I rewrote a lot after the first rehearsal. [Director Sara Romersberger] is incredible. We’ve created our own timeline of the play and when we showed them to each other, they matched up almost 95 percent perfectly. It’s incredible when your director understands your vision and is able to carry it out.

I have finally this year been able to combine my two majors and find the beauty in it. Everything is so relevant to each other – the play that I am writing, the things we learn about in acting, the stuff we read about in Spanish, the things we talk about in directing – everything is so interconnected and this year is the culmination of that for me. It was really encouraging because it feels like I am just doing one huge project.

AVD: What is the importance of new works?

KK: I think readings are just as important if not more important than big productions.

They are what is going to get you in the door. Most of the things you are going to be involved with and most of the things you are going to network through are new works. It’s so rich because of all the new, wonderful ideas. Readings are SO important and it teaches you so much about acting because the whole thing is a cold read at first.

Don’t miss “La Lluvia” on Sunday, March 22, 2014 at 8 p.m. Kelso will also direct “Marisol” as part of the Rep series in April in the Margo Jones Theatre.

Read more interviews with New Visions, New Voices student playwrights.

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