Southeast Hosting First Annual Lanford Wilson New American Play Festival June 14-19

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The Jeanine Larson Dobbins Conservatory of Theatre and Dance is proud to present the first annual Lanford Wilson New American Play Festival to showcase new American plays and playwrights from across the country.

The Festival, to be held June 14-19 at Southeast Missouri State University’s River Campus, recognizes the outstanding work of new and professional playwrights and will provide resources and productions for academic and training theatre programs across the nation.

The development of new scripts is the life blood and future of theatre, but limited resources exist to support that endeavor and there are no programs that specifically develop plays with characters for college-aged actors, said Dr. Kenneth Lee Stilson, the Festival’s executive director and chair of The Conservatory.

“There are hundreds of actor training programs in universities around the world and there’s a great need for plays written with characters their own ages to assist in their training,” he said. “This new festival will provide a valuable resource for playwrights and universities in search of new material.”

The Festival emphasizes plays with dynamic college-aged characters that also have robust roles for female actors and provide performance opportunities for actors from underrepresented communities. Highlighting how the Festival is meeting this national need, more than 750 full-length plays were submitted for consideration for the Festival’s inaugural debut.

Submissions came from published professionals and new playwrights of all ages from coast to coast, Stilson said.

Five plays have been selected as feature developmental staged readings:

  • “All Eight” by Lilly Camp, of Los Angeles, Calif., graduate of Tisch/New York University
  • “Civicsand Humanities for Non-Majors” by Jeff Talbott, of New York City, N.Y., graduate of the Yale School of Drama
  • “Jungle Juice” by Kevin Renn, of Manhattan, N.Y., Artist Resident with The Sable Project and a New Play Resident with Weathervane Theatre
  • “Randi & Roxanne” by Rachel Graf Evans, of Philadelphia, Pa., dual graduate of George and Joy Abbott Musical Theater Collaboration Studio at Temple University and the Hollins Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University
  • “The Romantic Movement” by Emily Bohannon, of Sandersville, Ga., graduate of the Lila Acheson Wallace Playwriting Program at The Juilliard School

At the end of the week-long festival, one of the featured full-length plays will be selected to be considered for publication by Concord Theatricals, the world’s foremost publisher of plays, and will receive its world premiere as part of the 2021-2022 Dobbins Conservatory of Theatre and Dance Series.

The Festival will also feature a program of short plays by five Missouri-based playwrights, showcasing the amazing talent being developed and nurtured in the state of Missouri, Stilson said.

  • “Don’t Toy With Me” by Andrew Black, of Columbia, currently earning his doctorate at the University of Missouri-Columbia
  • “Remembering Morgan” by Annie Brown, of Oklahoma City, Okla., incoming musical theatre freshman at Southeast Missouri State University
  • “Rising” by Gabrielle Freitas, of Cape Girardeau, graduate of Southeast Missouri State University
  • “The Bee That Declared a War” by Cary J. Simowitz, of Coral Springs, Fla., graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles’ School of Theater, Film and Television, and currently serving as the Dramatists Guild’s Regional Ambassador for St. Louis
  • “Lawncare” by Paul Vintner, of Springfield, graduate Royal Holloway (Egham, England) and the University of Central Missouri

“We are proud to have a short plays by recent Southeast alumna, Gabrielle Freitus, and incoming freshman, Annie Brown, represented,” Stilson said. “It’s an amazing accomplishment and their work will be shown alongside experienced professionals.”

The Festival will also feature free workshops and seminars about playwriting and new play development both for theatre artists and the general public. The workshops will be presented by Stilson; Kitt Lavoie, the Festival’s artistic director and assistant professor of theatre at Southeast; the full-length playwrights; and special guest speakers.

The Festival has partnered with Molecule Literary Magazine, which publishes short-form pieces of 50 words or less. As part of a session, playwrights will workshop 50-word plays, some of which will be published by Molecule in an upcoming issue.

One of the most exciting aspects of the festival is that audiences will have an opportunity to be a part of the playmaking process, Lavoie said.

“Audiences in Cape Girardeau will be able to see the readings of the plays and participate in a post-show discussion with the playwrights,” he said. “Then, they can return to the River Campus this fall to see the winning play fully produced.”

The Festival also provides an essential laboratory to train student actors in the skills and ethics of developing new plays and working in production with a living playwright, Lavoie said.

“It is a huge part of the business, and there are so few universities in the country that teach it,” he said.

Named for the late Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning playwright and Missouri-native Lanford Wilson, the Festival honors Wilson’s theatrical contributions, including landmark plays “Talley’s Folly, Fifth of July,” “Burn This” and “Balm in Gilead” that mark him as one of the foremost dramatists of the 20th century.

“Lanford Wilson is a giant in the world of theatre, and we’re incredibly grateful to have received permission from Mr. Wilson’s estate to name the festival in his honor,” Stilson said. “This is a wonderful thing for our students, the University and community. We expect this to be the first of many years in developing original works that will potentially be produced around the world.”

The Lanford Wilson New American Play Festival is being 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.

Additional information about the Lanford Wilson New American Play Festival, including a schedule of events, play synopses and guest biographies, is available at semo.edu/lanfordwilson.

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