A spring playwriting festival in its 20th season, New Visions, New Voices will present one performance each of a variety of full-length plays written by students graduating from the Division of Theatre. Directors include guest artists as well as faculty and students. Each performance will be followed by an audience discussion session with the playwright, director and actors. The festival is produced by SMU Associate Professor and Head of Theatre Studies Gretchen Smith.
The plays are as follows:
March 21, 8 p.m. - "Implications of a Mix CD"
Playwright: Carson McCain (BFA ’14)
Director: Lee Trull
It's about this girl, and these boys, and the feelings of love, and mix-CDs, and how things can exist before we ever have words to describe them."
Rated PG-13 for language and teenager-y situations.
March 22, 2 p.m. - "2020"
Playwright: Teddy Warren (BFA ’14)
Director: Katelyn Gough (BFA ’15)
Agatha Sykes, an accomplished congresswoman, seeks the presidency in the 2020 election and falls into scandal once she’s elected. A political dramedy.
Adult language and subject matter.
March 22, 8 p.m. - "La Lluvia"
Playwright: Kristen Kelso* (BFA ’14)
Director: Sara Romersberger
Dramaturg: David Lozano, Artistic Director, Cara Mia Theatre
La Lluvia follows the story of two lovers as they rediscover each other after tragedy. Along the way they discover la belleza, the limitations and the meaning of magic.
*Kristen is the recipient of an Engaged Learning grant from SMU
March 23, 2 p.m. - "How To Cook For One Person"
Playwright: Sarah Lacy Hamilton (BFA ’14)
Director: Jenna Hannum (BFA ’15)
In this heartwarming Southern comedy, a pastor’s wife struggles to redefine her life and her faith after the sudden death of her husband.
Good for all ages.
March 23, 7:30 p.m. - "Westman Holloway"
Playwright: Jacob Stewart (BFA ’14)
Director: Alia Tavakolian (BFA ’12, Davis St. Collective)
Westward, Ho! Westman is commissioned by Bigfoot to head west and enslave the people there. It's about the doom of destiny, American history, and sometimes, maybe love.
PG13 and historical.
March 28, 8 p.m. - "Mutations"
Playwright: Thomas Valentine Gelo* (BFA ’14)
Director: Jeffrey Schmidt (Theatre Three, Water Tower Theatre)
High school valedictorian August Camden, living in the shadow of a successful father, a burned-out brother, and a step-mother just ten years older than himself, discovers that the nuclear family has a half-life.
Adult situations and language.
*Thomas is a recipient of the Writers Guild of America-East mentorship and an Engaged Learning grant from SMU
March 29, 2 p.m. - "Chrysalis Blue"
Playwright: Claire Carson* (BFA ’14)
Director: Samantha Rios (BFA ’13)
A darkly poetic fairytale about three siblings that explores the limitations of love, causation, and new uses for chairs.
*Claire is a recipient of the Writers Guild of America-East mentorship grant and an Engaged Learning grant from SMU
March 29, 8 p.m. - "The Glass House"
Playwright: Joshua Stephen Gardner* (BFA ’14)
Director: Gretchen Smith (Division of Theatre)
The Glass family members fight for their lives and autonomy in the midst of delirium, disillusion, and vanity, as the world around them and the lives they've known shatter and dissolve.
*Stephen is a recipient of the Writers Guild of America-East mentorship grant.
Contact: For more information call 214.768.2787.
March 21, 2014
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.
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.
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.
A word with Tom Valentine Gelo (B.F.A. Theatre, B.A. Film, ’14), playwright of “Mutations” in New Visions, New Voices.
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.
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.
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