Playwrights in the Newsroom debuts at ATTPAC
Work by two theatre alumni commissioned by Ignite/Arts Dallas
Dallas - Playwrights in the Newsroom, an immersive new play about journalism and the search for truth written by local theater artists and SMU Meadows School of the Arts alumni Janielle Kastner (’12) and Brigham Mosley (’10), will premiere over two successive weekends, March 5 through 8 and March 12 through 15, 2020 at the Studio Theatre, the intimate black-box style space, on the sixth floor of the Wyly Theatre in the downtown Dallas Arts District. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday & Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday & Sunday. Playwrights in the Newsroom is part of the 2020 Elevator Project Season. General admission tickets are $29 each.
Tickets will be available online at www.attpac.org, by telephone at 214-880-0202 or in person at the AT&T Performing Arts Center Winspear Opera House Box Office at 2403 Flora Street. The Box Office is open 10:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and before performances – closed Saturdays and Sundays.
Note: Downloadable photos are available at www.attpac.org/media.
In addition to Kastner and Mosley in featured roles, the cast includes six local actors. The show will be directed by New York-based theater artist Aaron Landsman.
Playwrights in the Newsroom grew out of discussions in 2017 between Lauren Smart, a journalism faculty member at SMU Meadows and contributing arts writer to The Dallas Morning News, and Tom Huang, the paper’s assistant managing editor for journalism initiatives. The idea was to let playwrights learn more about the challenges journalists face in collecting and reporting facts, then create an engaging story that builds greater understanding about journalists’ roles and, said Huang, “hopefully increases trust and transparency in what a local newsroom does for its community.”
Kastner, an actor, podcaster and playwright, and Mosley, a playwright and solo performer, loved the idea and agreed to undertake the project. Joining the effort was the Ignite/Arts Dallas (I/AD) initiative at SMU Meadows, led by Clyde Valentín. I/AD provided a $5000 commission to the playwrights to bring the work to fruition and has served as a key co-developer for the project.
“I wanted Janielle and Brigham to bring their unique creative spirit and passion to this project, so we agreed from the beginning that our newspaper would have no control or oversight over the content of the play,” said Huang. “We opened our newsroom to them and trusted their judgment.”
Beginning in fall 2017, Kastner and Mosley spent hundreds of hours shadowing and interviewing reporters at the newspaper’s offices. They asked questions like, “What’s the metaphor that describes your job? What are your best and worst days? How do you decide what gets covered?” They also talked to journalism students and met with community members to discuss news consumption, including a group of Meadows School trustees who are newspaper readers and a group of LatinX millennials who prefer other media sources.
The resulting play combines humor and drama to reflect the playwrights’ journey of understanding how news is gathered and reported, the difference between fact and opinion, and why trustworthy journalism matters to a democracy.
“From those first pivotal days shadowing the newsroom, our dream was to turn our realizations into a truly special, theatrical, one-of-a-kind experience for our city,” said Kastner. “We set our sights on the Elevator Project as the perfect home to debut this original theatrical experiment – what a gift to have the space and resources to do Playwrights in the Newsroom at the scale we dreamed of! We’re so grateful to the Elevator Project team, and can’t wait to share Playwrights in the Newsroom with the audience on the sixth floor of the Wyly.”
“Building this piece has been a transformative experience for us as individuals (I once got my news exclusively from Buzzfeed and SNL, for goodness’ sake!),” said Mosley. “This golden opportunity provided by the Elevator Project to share with Dallas our revelations about Journalism (What It Is and Why It Matters) is a gift for which we’re deeply grateful.”
Ignite/Arts Dallas’ commission of Playwrights in the Newsroom was made possible thanks to grants to I/AD from the Mellon Foundation and George and Fay Young. I/AD also provided technical and artistic support. PEN America, a New York-based foundation that supports freedom of the press and media literacy, helped fund the project’s outreach and engagement activities. The Dallas Morning News provided the playwrights $450 and unlimited access to the newsroom, held regular meetings with the artists and producers and provided critical feedback on the early drafts of the script.