The annual Alternative Theatre Festival’s New Play Developmental Project is designed to give playwrights, who have already had some success, a place to get a first production for a new play they have been working on. Getting the kind of production assistance FIU Theatre can offer for a new play is a difficult thing to achieve, so the opportunity is very valuable. Once the production qualities for the play and the production issues are worked out here at FIU, the play is ready to go out to other venues. The value to FIU is that FIU Theatre’s name will always be attached to the play as having given it its original production. We want FIU Theatre to become known as a place that fosters new play development, which, as anyone involved in theatre knows, is the life-blood of the future of the art of theatre. Additionally, the New Play Development Project increases visibility for the Department of Theatre’s programs as well as encouraging play writing.
We are only beginning our third year of sponsoring the New Play Development Project and can already claim some success. The first play which we sponsored through ATF in summer 2012, As the Globe Warms, premiered at the Vortex Repertory in Austin, Texas later that fall and was subsequently performed at the Disney Concert Hall in LA, after the design and technology aspects were perfected at FIU. The second play, A Thousand Years, did not seem producible initially. The play featured dozens of short scenes with tsunamis, plane crashes, mountain climbing and other difficult to stage actions. However, FIU actors, designers and Michael Yawney’s inspired directing proved that the play could succeed on the stage. It is currently being published so that other theatres can produce it. FIU Theatre’s name is now attached to those two productions. We are about to start working on this year’s New Play Development Project winner, Catherine’s Wheel, by Miami’s own Juan C. Sanchez. The playwright will be at the rehearsals, editing and rewriting based on the work we do here.
The idea for the New Play Development Project came from the Department Chair, Marilyn Skow. In her opinion the importance of the New Play Development project goes beyond getting FIU Theatre’s name attached to new works. It’s also about the opportunity for theatre students to help develop a brand new work, which is a wonderful learning experience. The Department Dramaturg, Michael Yawney, is responsible for selecting the development projects. According to Michael, “In science, lab experiments are conducted for research and development purposes. In theatre, developmental productions serve as our research and development. We experiment with them and adjust them to create something stage worthy.”
The Alternative Theatre Festival itself traditionally includes, in addition to the New Play Development Project, two other productions, a student directed show, and a faculty directed show. This year, we have three wonderful productions lined up. The season begins with Gizmo Love by John Kolvenbach, directed by Wilfredo Cabrera (June 19, 20, 21 & 26, 27, 28), followed by Catherine’s Wheel, (New Play Developmental Project winner), written by Juan C. Sanchez and directed by Michael Yawney (July 10, 11, 12 &17, 18, 19). The season ends with a riotous comedy titled Play On, by Rick Abbot, directed by Marina Pareja (July 24, 25, 26 & July 31, August 1, 2).
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