These short plays, the result of Actors Theatre’s program of playwright instruction with students from the Jefferson County Public Schools, are characterized by the young mind’s fancy and a taste for whimsy that might be the envy of many adult writers. The development process seems rigorous enough to guarantee that the results, whatever the variance in quality, are structured enough to be actual “plays,” with a beginning, middle and end, and not extended scenes or sketches, which is what often proves to be the case in many local short play collections. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it is encouraging to see that this program has foundational principles that emphasize fundamentals.
Of course, the impact is immeasurably aided by the professional grade production values afforded by Actors Theatre as well as the high energy and easy skill of the Acting Apprentice Company, for whom this serves as something of a graduation from their strenuous yet rewarding season of service.
Some of the more fantastical ideas result from academic exercises designed to fire up the imagination. In Cameron the Mango, by Chanze Castro, the titular fruit are anthropomorphized into a society that takes heroic action to escape the jungle and their inevitable fate; while Hannah Watkins’ Life in a Fishbowl, a slight story, gains much through the tremendous charm of Kim Fischer and Kimberley Weinkle as goldfish experiencing love at first sight.
Others show the kind of stories that might preoccupy the mind of a teenager wired into the popular culture: hallucinations resulting from avoiding the proper medications (or are they the RESULT of improper medications) in Jennifer Winstead’s Please; or exploding the comforting clichés of childhood fairy tales in Christine Oser’s Strangely Ever After. A most vivid human/zombie romance results in an errant finger run amuck in a restaurant in Meghan “Bunny” Buckalew’s Postmortem Proposal; and Clare Wolz’ Paper or Plastic is informed by the common first job experience of a retail cashier. The subjects may be drawn from recent experience, but the perspective is surprisingly developed and free from the sort of self-absorption one might expect to find in so young a writer.
The educational aspect of the collaboration between student and teacher also extends to many on the creative team, with design and education interns involved in lighting, costuming and directing the material.
It is kind of a shame that this program receives such a brief run, representing, as it does, a program that reaches a total of 1,720 students in 35 schools. The audience for the two evenings seemed filled with family and friends, but the entertainment value is rich enough to offer as worthwhile an evening of theatre that one might find on any stage this time of year.
2013 New Voices Young Playwrights Festival at Actors Theatre
Tim & Dair Mathistad
Katie & Chris Haulter
Kathy Todd Chaney
Angie Reed Garner