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A Closing Look at New Visions, New Voices 2014

Meadows students and playwrights Stephen Gardner (B.F.A. Theatre, ’14) and Claire Carson (B.F.A. Theatre, ’14) introduce their New Visions, New Voices works.

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

Each spring, Meadows is graced with the brand new work of senior playwriting students. This year marks the 20th season of New Visions, New Voices, an annual playwriting festival put on by the Division of Theatre of SMU. 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. This project is guided by Associate Professor and Head of Theatre Studies Gretchen Smith and admission is free.

A word with Stephen Gardner (B.F.A. Theatre, ’14), playwright of The Glass House; New Visions, New Voices, Saturday, March 29, 2014 at 8 p.m.

StephenGarnderAlly Van Deuren: What is your play about?

Stephen Gardner: This play is about the Glass family and their struggles for autonomy, love, happiness, fulfillment and truth. I'm hesitant to say more, because part of the fun of the script is figuring it out as it goes along.

AVD: What was your inspiration for writing this play?

SG: I was inspired to write this play when I was reading the works of Fyodor Dostoyevsky last summer. I loved the Russian energy and the intensity of their emotional lives and experiences. I also loved how Dostoyevsky played with form and tone, and dramatic misdirection. While in the middle of The Brothers Karamazov, I realized that I had to write a family drama of my own in the Russian manner, and I chose to present it in a Chekhovian four-act structure.

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

SG: The process has been great and it has been a lot of fun getting actors into the room. When writing this play, I was very focused on finding a particular rhythm for the play and for these characters, and the specific flux of energy with the action on stage. It has been a very rewarding experience to have actors who are so willing to work on discovering and embodying all of these nuances.

AVD: When did you first get interested in playwriting?

SG: I first got interested in writing plays when I was in middle school and realized that when you write a play, you can put as many curse words in it as you want (I was in middle school...) and that you can chronicle certain experiences in your life in a way that allows other people to relate to them. I've also always loved making people laugh and telling jokes, and for this reason a lot of my earlier writings were comedic and oftentimes outright silly. Since then, I've really been interested in playing around with form and the composition of plays – both in specific moments and the overall play structure. This probably has something to do with the fact that I was a math nerd in high school.

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

SG: I definitely want to sit on this play for a little bit after the reading. I've been working on it and obsessing over it for around nine months now and it's always good to step away from a work for a little bit so that you can come at it with a fresh perspective. The end goal is to send this play out to a bunch of theatre companies and contests and grant opportunities and see if I can get a full production of it somewhere. But the way I see it is that I still have time to do a lot of things. I'm never going to stop writing, and I hope to never grow out of touch with my imagination.

Don’t miss “The Glass House” on Saturday, March 29, 2014 at 8 p.m.

A word with Claire Carson (B.F.A. Theatre, ’14), playwright of Chrysalis Blue; New Visions, New Voices, Saturday, March 29, 2014 at 2 p.m.

ClaireCarsonAlly Van Deuren: What is the play about?

Claire Carson: It's a fairy tale about an 8 year old in a mental institution and a boy and girl who run away to a tower in the woods. I'm hesitant to reveal too much about the plot, because it's sort of crucial to the experience of the play that the puzzle pieces of the story fit together as you watch it, but it focuses on how trauma shapes people in strange and specific ways and what it is to bury all your hopes, dreams and expectations inside another person.

AVD: What was your inspiration for the play?

CC: I was watching a lot of documentaries about psychopaths and serial killers and was fascinated by their childhoods and their families and the reasons they turned into the people they turned into. I also wanted to make a case for things that society considers gross or taboo or scary. I wanted to find a way to make those things relatable or understandable and to excavate the beauty in things that are generally regarded as ugly.

AVD: How has the process been so far?

CC: Strange. Writing anything is hard because you start with an idea, and it's like your baby and it's so exciting and particular and special to you and that's the worst, because eventually you have to abandon your pretty little idea because it's limiting. Eventually you have to let the characters and the conflict evolve naturally and give up control and place trust in the world of the play and the people you've created in it. And that's been hard with this play because it keeps going places that scare me and make me uncomfortable! Being able to sit in on rehearsals has been incredibly helpful because it quickly becomes clear what the actors do and do not follow and when the play diverts from action; those things are hard to identify on your own, when you're just reading and re-reading the words you've written. It really helps to hear it out loud.

AVD: When did you first get interested in playwriting?

CC: High school. I wrote a really stupid play that I hated and decided I was only ever going to write poems. Then I came to SMU and realized that plays could just be poems with lights and sound and that it was all kind of the same. I realized that the theatre I like most does the same thing poetry does and that it affects people the same way.

AVD: What are your plans for the future of this play and also future plans for you?

CC: I'm in conversation with a classmate (the lovely and talented Carson McCain) about putting a reiteration of the play this summer in either Dallas or Nashville, directed by her, and more fully produced! No plans are set in stone yet, but it's definitely an exciting possibility. As for me, I'm planning on staying in Dallas next year. I want to save money and read more and write more and cook more and keep working at the bakery I work at and start doing yoga or something. I also want to write a musical with my friend Trevor. Not a "musical-ly" musical; I'm interested in specific imagery and space manipulation and movement happening in time with beautiful music on stage. So that's a theatrical goal for the upcoming year!

Don’t miss “Chrysalis Blue” on Saturday, March 29, 2014 at 2 p.m.


First Look at New Visions, New Voices

A Second Look: Two Playwrights Talk New Visions, New Voices

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