Playwrights relish a chance to put their original work out there and, ideally, have it performed live.
Ann Arbor has a place that gives local writers a platform: Theatre Nova, a company focused on new plays and playwrights. The company presents the Michigan’s Playwright’s Festival, Oct. 18-23 at the Yellow Barn, 410 W. Huron, after a wildly successful inaugural event last December. The fest is a chance for read-throughs of playwright’s original works, with the possibility of Theatre Nova adopting them as full-length plays for the upcoming season.
“Theatre Nova is a playwright’s theatre. We founded [it] thinking about programs that support and develop the works of playwrights. A staged-reading festival is a no-brainer,” said Carla Milarch, Theatre Nova Artistic Director.
For this event, the company keys on Michigan playwrights, who Milarch recognizes as talented but underserved in terms of production and development opportunities.
“Our suspicions that more opportunities (for these writers) were needed, were confirmed in the first year of the festival when we got so many high-quality submissions that we expanded the format from one-week in the fall, to two weeks, one in the fall and one in the spring.”
Half of the plays featured in the first festival were picked up for a full production this season, Milarch said. One of them, Katherine by Kim Carney, highlighting five generations of mothers and daughters telling interconnected stories, was nominated for a Wilde Award for “Best New Script.” Another one of those scripts, Spin, was written by Detroit playwright Emilio Rodriguez, now co-director for the Michigan Playwright’s Festival, working on the festival selection committee where, once a work is chosen, he assists in pairing the scripts with a director who casts the production.
“[The festival] is great because we have a lot of voices, a lot of writers who are interested in sharing their story,” Rodriguez said.
This year, the festival received more than 50 submissions. To be considered, Milarch’s team looked for full-length works— 60 minutes or longer— that have not had a full production anywhere and are ready to be read in front of an audience.
“It’s a great way for playwrights to give their works a ‘test drive’ in front of an audience,” Milarch said. “This gives them lots of useful feedback to incorporate as they prepare the work for production.”
During the six-day festival, patrons can take in readings every night and watch the play that is running in tandem with the event, Mr. Joy.
“The MPF supports our homegrown playwrights, which keeps them working and creating right here in Michigan,” Milarch said. “We keep our artists here to enrich our lives. It’s the definition of a win-win.”
Rodriguez echoes the sentiment, hoping that this locally grown artistry continues to thrive.
“Hopefully, we start this trend where more and more theaters are excited about local writers to work and produce for them,” Rodriguez said.
All readings are free with a suggested $10 donation.
Check out the full schedule of readings and
get more information at theatrenova.org