The Inaugural Lanford Wilson New American Playwright Festival concluded on Saturday, June 19, after a week of workshops, discussions and staged readings. The new annual event, produced by The Jeanine Larson Dobbins Conservatory of Theatre and Dance, the Holland College of Arts & Media, and Southeast Missouri State University, honors the legacy of Missouri-native and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Lanford Wilson.
Emily Bohannon, a New York City based playwright originally from Sandersville, Georgia, was awarded top honor at the closing awards ceremony for her festival submission “The Romantic Movement.” The play chronicles the experience of high school students and college-aged resident assistants at a classical music camp in rural Florida during the summer of 1967. As the winner of the festival’s top honor, Bohannon’s play will be fully produced and receive its world premiere as part of the 2021-22 Dobbins Conservatory of Theatre and Dance Series.
“I wish there had been something like this when I attended college,” said Bohannon, who is a graduate of the Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program at The Juilliard School and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Drama from the University of Georgia. “I enjoyed interacting with the students and other playwrights, and I’m excited to see my play produced next spring.”
“This was an amazing start for our first year,” said Dr. Kenneth Lee Stilson, the Festival’s executive director and chair of Dobbins Conservatory. “The number of play submissions, quality of the submissions and the enthusiasm of the arts community for this event exceeded our wildest expectations.”
“We received so much material that had robust roles for college-aged actors, and it was thrilling to see our students perform those roles in the staged readings,” said Kitt Lavoie, the Festival’s artistic director and assistant professor of theatre at Southeast. “Our hope is that all of these plays will have a life well beyond this festival and find homes on university stages around the country.”
The objective of the festival is to identify and develop original scripts for college theater programs, as there is a dearth of material with roles matching the demographics of these programs. The festival succeeded and received more than 750 full-length play submissions, with organizers narrowing the pool to five selections that each received staged readings throughout the week. All of the finalist playwrights attended the festival, shared insights during workshops and participated in discussions after stage readings.
The Lanford Wilson New American Play Festival was presented as part of the River Campus Summer Arts Festival. Festival sponsors include Saint Francis Healthcare, DSW Signs, City of Cape Parks and Recreation, Rust Media, River Radio, Southern Convenience, Ciao and many more.