New York City’s Theatre East and SMU Meadows Division of Theatre Announce Innovative “Wet Ink Series” Partnership
Co-production to livestream SMU student-written plays inspired by late civil rights leader John Lewis, Nov. 9-10
DALLAS (SMU) --- Theatre East, a New York City-based off-Broadway theatre company, is partnering with SMU Meadows School of the Arts and its Division of Theatre to virtually produce the “Wet Ink Series,” seven new plays by student theatre artists. The plays will be livestreamed free at 7 p.m. CST on November 9 and 10 with a mix of student and professional actors. Performances will be stage managed by students and directed by New York professionals and SMU faculty and alumni. Junior and senior SMU playwrights are writing the short plays based on a prompt inspired by the late American statesman and civil rights leader John Lewis:
“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”
SMU Associate Professor of Theatre Benard Cummings, who is helping lead the project, noted, “The plays deal with the here and now, in this age of COVID and social unrest.” The November 9 performance will showcase three 10-minute plays written by juniors, and the November 10 performance will feature four 20-minute plays by seniors. All rehearsals and performances will be via Zoom.
The partnership provides the college students the rare opportunity to write roles for characters of all ages and see them performed by age-appropriate actors. It also allows the Texas-based students the chance to form a connection with a New York City professional theatre ahead of their graduation and to work with professional actors and directors from New York.
“We’re really excited about this opportunity to connect with Theatre East and to enable our playwrights, stage managers, and actors to make this connection and to see their work on a new platform,” said Gretchen Smith, SMU Theatre chair and head of the playwriting program.
The collaboration came about as a result of the pandemic. “At SMU, we were looking at possible performance-based projects we could work on virtually since we had to cancel our in-person theatre season due to the coronavirus,” said Cummings, who has worked in New York with Theatre East as both an actor and director. “I participated in Theatre East’s popular 5x5 Drama Series, which presents five short plays in different locations over five days. It is a wonderful way to nurture new playwrights and revisit some overlooked gems. The artistic director, Judson Jones, was excited about the idea of doing something similar with SMU. He is a huge supporter of playwrights and their craft. We are thrilled to be working with him!”
“New plays are the lifeblood of theatre. As a company, we’ve always chosen to foster new plays and playwrights,” said Jones. “With pretty much all in-person theatre being cancelled, we thought we could either go into hibernation or look at creating unique, meaningful opportunities. By collaborating remotely, we’ve been freed of geographical constraints, allowing us to work with artists all over the U.S. I hope this pilot program is just the beginning of a great partnership that can offer a pipeline between Texas and New York.”
Since the worldwide closing of multiple theatre spaces due to the global pandemic, Theatre East has produced several successful online readings and productions, including the 5x5 Drama Series. The series was livestreamed via Facebook and had over 30,000 views, reaching far more audience members than was previously possible. Since 2016, the 5x5 Drama Series has typically toured all five New York boroughs, utilizing non-traditional space like bars and rooftops. The move to virtual performance has increased accessibility for Theatre East’s audience and given them a reputation for excellence in this new medium.
The public is invited to watch the performances online. Attendance is free, but advance registration is required (links below). For more information, call the Meadows ticket office at 214.768.2787.
About Theatre East
Theatre East is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit theatre company whose mission is to provide the community with a platform to deepen their understanding of themselves and the world through works of theatre that utilize simple storytelling. The New York-based company believes that theatre is not a luxury but should be accessible to all, regardless of economic or social status.
The company was founded in 2008 by husband-and-wife producing partners Judson Jones (artistic director) and Christa Kimlicko Jones (associate artistic director), along with Joseph Mitchell Parks. The Joneses had previously produced such hits as the premiere of Christopher Durang’s The Vietnamization of New Jersey (NY Times Critic’s Pick) and the premiere of Texas playwright David W. Crawford’s Harvest (BackStage Critic’s Pick, Smith & Kraus Best New Plays of 2008), and earned a spot as “producers to watch” in 2008 on PBS’s Theatre Talk. Since its founding, Theatre East has mounted such critically acclaimed New York and world premieres as Tim Blake Nelson’s Eye of God; Daniel McIvor’s The Soldier Dreams; Bennett Windheim’s Normalcy; Megan O’Brien’s The Jungle Book; Devil and the Deep with original music and lyrics by Air Supply’s Graham Russell; Cyndi Williams’ A Name for a Ghost to Mutter; Lori Fischer’s Petie; and, most recently, the rare and critically praised revival of Romulus Linney’s Holy Ghosts. For more information, visit theatreeast.org.
About SMU Meadows School of the Arts’ Division of Theatre
The highly regarded theatre program at SMU is intensive and, within a strong liberal arts context, unique. Undergraduates explore their potential as actors, directors, designers, stage managers or playwrights and go wherever their inspiration and abilities lead them. Graduate students in the robust master’s design program cultivate artistic, analytical and practical skills in set design, lighting, projection and costumes. Students in the master’s in acting program focus on embodying action through the marriage of self to technique, imagination to text, with curriculum that combines broad-based and inclusive actor training with rehearsal and performance of classical, contemporary, ensemble-based and self-created works. Alumni from both the undergraduate and graduate programs include Academy Award, Emmy, Tony, and Golden Globe winners, and can be found performing on stage, in film, television, and digital productions, as well as in theatre tech, design and stage management. Several have formed their own theatrical companies including the Signature Theatre in New York, The House Theatre of Chicago, Kitchen Dog Theater in Dallas and others. For more information, visit smu.edu/theatre.