Paul Carrol Binkley, Nashville-based composer and music director, is pleased to rejoin Laurie Brooks and Jeff Church on the team. Paul wrote the score for Laurie’s play Selkie: Between Land and Sea which premiered at The Coterie produced by Jeff, directed by Scot Copeland. Scot and Paul collaborated on their original musical Jack’s Tale, dramaturged by Laurie, which recently premiered at The Kennedy Center. The opportunity to develop this new project at The Provincetown will give the team valuable time to work on Dust at a critical stage of development. Paul has worn varied hats as a musician over the years including touring with country group Alabama, serving as Artist in Residence at Vanderbilt University, music directing at Nashville Children’s Theatre for over twenty years, and orchestrating for The Nashville Symphony, among many others. To Paul, what sets composing for the Theatre apart from all other commercial endeavors in the music industry is the process of creating music that enhances and supports the storytelling.
Jeff Church, Producing Artistic Director of The Coterie in Kansas City, Missouri, “is pleased to be back with New Plays for Young Audiences in the Steinhardt’s terrific Program in Educational Theatre at NYU.” Jeff directed for NYPA in its very first year (1998) and continued for the next seven years though 2005. “Lowell Swortzell was leading the summer developmental festival at the time, and he was one of the greats. One of The Coterie’s most important commissions, The Wrestling Season, by Laurie Brooks, was developed here in 1999,” said Jeff. Jeff used the NPYA program to work on some experimental scripts as well, such as a transgender-themed play, The 12:07, also by Laurie Brooks.
Laurie Brooks will be in New York for this year’s NPYA at The Provincetown, developing her new musical, Dust, with her team, Composer/Musician Paul Carrol Binkley and Director Jeff Church. Dust tells the story of Ellie, a girl who the town believes is an angel that can call rain from the skies and make crops grow again. The ravages of the Dusters that caused the death of her mother are bad enough, but even worse, Ellie knows she’s just an ordinary girl who cannot perform miracles. The phenomenon of one brave family who stayed through the Dustbowl and the prescient topic of climate change are embedded in this story.
By Teresa Fisher
New Plays for Young Audiences is an annual play development series focused on developing work for young audiences, ages three to twenty-one. For three weeks each June, we develop three new scripts—one each week, Sunday through Sunday—in the historic Provincetown Playhouse. The plays must be unpublished and unproduced. We receive the scripts between July and October. We read them in November and then meet in early December to select our season. Between January and the start of the series in June, we are busy arranging housing, transportation, marketing, auditions, and selecting the rest of the creative teams. As we are housed in an education institution—NYU Steinhardt—our series has an educational component not found in other play development programs, including having a graduate class taught by Joe Salvatore that accompanies the series.
The challenge in choosing the scripts is creating a balanced season in which we:
- Select scripts that still need development and are potentially interesting to young audiences, including the classrooms with which we collaborate.
- Select playwrights who are invested in the development process and able to utilize it to improve their scripts. One way we tell this is through the goals they articulate with their submission.
- Bring in scripts that will give our graduate class something to talk and learn about TYA.
- Provide opportunities for our student actors to participate in an engaging process.
- Recognize the diversity in our TYA audiences and support the continuing development of the field.
Although you might think the script is the most important piece of the submission, the goals for development that we ask each playwright to submit are equally if not more important. Unless we have worked with the playwright before, we don’t know how the playwright will fare in our specific development process. Most of the time we don’t know who these playwrights are beyond what we can find online and/or they provide with their submission. We don’t know where the script is in its development, what the playwright wants to see happen with the script, or how well-suited for a development process the playwright will be. The goals clarify this for us. If a playwright, for example, is interested in how the technical elements will enhance the script, we know that we won’t be a good fit, as we are very low-tech. On the other hand, a playwright who identifies clear areas that need developing in their script—especially if we’ve also noticed those same areas—is more credible to us than one who provides essentially clichéd ones (i.e. “I want to work on the characters, seeing if they are well-developed” or “I am looking to see if the story flows”) or, worse yet, no goals at all.
One of the challenges for a play development series focused on TYA is determining what is TYA and what isn’t. Some of this is a matter of taste. According to the New Victory Theater staff (as noted online in the TDF Theatre Dictionary), TYA “includes any performance taking place in the presence of young audiences.” That is a pretty wide definition, so the question becomes, “what do youth want to see?” As our team has discussed at length, opinions differ on what makes a play TYA. If a play has no youth characters, does that mean it can’t be TYA? Not necessarily, but that is certainly a question to explore—“What makes this story appealing to young audiences?” On the flipside, just because a play has youth characters doesn’t mean it is TYA. Many plays with young characters appeal to a wide audience.
Mario and the Comet that Stopped the World. Book and Lyrics by Gabriel Jason Dean, Music and Lyrics by David Dabbon, directed by Courtney Sale.
When we—the production team consisting of me (Producer/Administrator), Dr. David Montgomery (Artistic Director), Gina Grandi (Artistic Associate for School Collaboration), and Jim DeVivo (Artistic Associate) —choose the scripts for our season, we read each submission. We then respond to a series of questions from the practical (genre, age group) to the more subjective (writing, story, concerns, strengths). Those responses are compiled so we can see side-by-side how each script spoke to us. Then we meet to discuss our options. Any script that received a strong “yes” is automatically considered, even if only one member of the team said “yes.” Scripts that received multiple “maybe” replies are also included. Plays with across the board “no” responses are reviewed at the end of the discussion to make sure we didn’t miss something.
After that discussion, we have whittled our options down. This year we had seventy in the “no” column and twenty-seven in the combined “maybe” and “yes” column. From those twenty-seven, we narrowed down to thirteen. In choosing from those thirteen, we moved from discussing the script and playwright goals to talking about the potential audiences, the graduate class, and the larger TYA field. As producer, I am also looking at the budget.
Forever Poppy by José Cruz González, directed by Laurie Woolery.
One consideration late in the process this year was realizing we had the potential to choose all female playwrights. As we’ve had years with all male playwrights, being able to reverse that trend—especially with scripts which featured more than one strong female protagonist—was appealing. We were finally down to six scripts. We weighed the goals, storylines, intended audiences, and other such factors as we made our final decisions. In the end, we had three pairs of scripts essentially competing against each other due to similar elements of story, audience, character, and/or approach. With each pair, we reviewed the playwrights’ goals as well as our goals for the upcoming season. In the end, we were able to choose three female playwrights each with an intriguing script, each intended for a different audience demographic (one high school, one middle school, and one elementary).
Interestingly, one of the topics of conversation amongst the team this year was the question of whether to pick a script that is already strong, but may not need as much development, or to take a chance on a script that may be a hot mess, but with the possibility of greatness, or with a known playwright. That conversation prompted me to wonder if one could designate an entire play development series or, in our case, individual weeks within a particular season, for scripts that are early in their development and others for scripts that are close to being stage-ready.
There is no question that from beginning to end, play development is a challenging process. Each year, we wonder where the three weeks will take us, but by carefully crafting a season that advances the TYA field while also providing a powerful experience for our graduate students and student actors, we strive to create a place where playwrights can devote a week to their craft working in an historic theatre built on a foundation of nurturing and evaluating new plays. That goal is what guided our co-founders, the late Lowell and Nancy Swortzell, to create New Plays for Young Audiences and it continues to inspire us almost two decades later.
– See more at: http://howlround.com/from-soup-to-nuts-choosing-a-tya-play-development-season#sthash.sHNYLVbA.dpuf
Originally posted at HowlRound at the following site: http://howlround.com/from-soup-to-nuts-choosing-a-tya-play-development-season
By Jason Boxer
Perhaps appropriately, I am in many ways an academic lover of theatre. The nuanced design of each Spolin game is an incredible feat to me – the meticulousness with which Aristotle explains story structure is as entertaining to me as any of the plays he influenced – and at the risk of brownnosing, I’ll admit that the history and overarching philosophy delineated in Theater for Change is a great read. (Incoming freshmen, bug David Montgomery to let you read more of that in Intro to Ed Theatre; it’s awesome and it’s a hell of a lot more exciting than Everyman).
Despite all this, I am happy to report that I was pushed out of this theoretical, theatre-nerd comfort zone when I was cast in John P. McEneny’s play Pollywog this past summer. Pollywog was the first of three plays produced for Ed Theatre’s annual New Plays for Young Audience series, and in it I was tasked with bringing to life a 14-ish year old kid named Francis. Punky, misunderstood, and confused, Francis is a supporting character whose biggest contribution to the play is his in-flux sexuality. There are rumors all over school that he is gay.
He eventually comes face to face with the primary spreader of this gossip – Tammy, McEneny’s main character – and the confrontation is a harsh, inelegant one. To put it as the character probably would, the scene hinges upon Francis being really pissed off.
He’s so mad he can’t get his words out. He can’t think. His dialogue – which could ideally be a delicate explanation of profound frustration – comes out bluntly and sloppily. McEneny placed him in the throes of a rabid, involuntary, and quintessentially teenage outburst.
The scene called for a wholly unacademic performer giving a wholly unacademic performance. The words of Spolin, Aristotle, and even our fearless leader David Montgomery weren’t going to help me this time.
I didn’t get it right until our second and final performance. I clenched my fists and felt them moisten with sweat. I spit my lines out antagonistically, genuinely hoping they would hurt Tammy. I began to feel dizzy and nearly out of control. For the first time in my life, I think I was really getting a taste of the living, visceral spirit of theatre, and I loved it. The audience did too.
My identity as a theatre practitioner was challenged by this experience. What kind of phony actor only gets excited about theory – I thought – and worse, what kind of phony teacher only gets excited about the on-paper potential of his field of study? I hope to be neither of those phonies, and New Plays for Young Audiences helped me realize that.
I’ll conclude by confessing that I’m uncertain of one thing and certain of another. The uncertain thing is if the words of Marceau and Lecoq will prove my next big theoretical inspiration. The certain thing is that Everyman is the most boring play ever, and I wish the incoming freshmen good luck in trudging through it.
By Blanca Vivancos
When last summer I got the email announcing I was going to be part of the cast of one of the shows at NYU Steinhardt’s New Plays for Young Audiences, I was thrilled. Of course it’s always exciting to get a positive answer after an audition, but in this case there were a few extra reasons why I wanted to be part of that project. For those of you who don’t know how New Plays for Young Audiences works, it is basically a theatre work in progress based on a new play that is still a working draft. During one week, actors, director, and playwright work together to give the play shape, showing the final result to an audience in a staged reading. This process is extremely helpful for the playwright who gets direct feedback from the actors and can adapt the play based on what is actually working or not working on stage. But as I was saying, this process was also extremely appealing for me for several reasons:
First, being an actress, the opportunity to be part of a work in progress is a challenge. Having to build a character based on a text that changes from one day to the next until the very last minute requires flexibility and technique, and there’s never enough of that for an actor, right?
That process becomes even more fulfilling by having the playwright on stage, working with the actors, explaining, listening, and re-writing. That is an amazing experience! How many times, reading a script, I would have paid to have the chance to ask the author, “Why?” Well, New Plays for Young Audiences gave me that for free!
Third, I would add that being a writer myself, observing the creative process of another playwright always gives food for thought. And having the opportunity to be part of that process, feeding back to the author from the actor’s perspective, is also an experience every playwright should have at least once.
This project also gave me the chance to work under the direction of Deirdre Lavrakas, from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. I guess anyone with some experience in theatre would agree with me about how much we actors learn by watching a director at work. And in this particular case, the lesson was even bigger because the director had to be flexible enough to adapt the show to the new version of the script in every rehearsal!
Probably one of the things that motivated me the most was the outstanding cast I shared the stage with. Most of the actors were related to the Program in Educational Theatre at NYU Steinhardt, so our rehearsals were a reflection of what that program is: a perfectly balanced combination of artistic talent and human touch. It is always a pleasure to work on stage with talented people who know how to listen, share, and create to build the best show possible.
Finally… lets be very honest with this: New Plays for Young Audiences happens at the Provincetown Playhouse in NYC, where Anne Bancroft, Julie Harris, Eugene O’Neill, and Bette Davis launched their careers. And yes, it’s not a bad reward to add my name to that list!
By Rachel Whorton
On an average summer day around an average conference table, three actors read an exceptional, though unfinished, script about an average boy named Zachary Briddling. The play, Zachary Briddling Who Was Awfully Middling by Finegan Kruckemeyer, was one of three plays selected for the New Plays for Young Audiences series in the historic Provincetown Playhouse.
The actors, including myself, were undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students from NYU and beyond. Over the course of one week, director Emilie Fitzgibbon of Ireland’s Graffiti Theater helped us create a world derived from Zachary’s crayon drawings. Giants, storytellers, roller skating squirrel-monkeys and girls covered entirely in hair were all characters from Zachary Briddling’s imagination; and it was up to just 2 actors to make the full cast of characters come to life around the third actor, Zachary himself. So my fellow actors and I engaged in some exploration of voice quality, pitch, volume, body posture, attitude and gesture as we tried to create at least 8 different characters…each.
As new pages came in during the development process, new characters appeared and disappeared, changed and mutated, combined and emerged more dynamic than before. Even after audiences entered the equation, the playwright and the director encouraged us to keep exploring and creating because the ultimate goal of New Plays for Young Audiences is to help the playwright develop his or her script.
Scripts in development are my favorite type of work because they are never confined to the notion of what has been, but are always looking forward to the possibility of what could be. The collaborative nature of the New Plays for Young Audiences rehearsal process made the experience anything but average.
New Plays for Young Audiences is an annual summer play development series located in the historic Provincetown Playhouse. Founded in 1998 by Lowell and Nancy Swortzell, NYU’s prize-winning New Plays for Young Audiences has developed over thirty new plays written by leading playwrights for young audiences and families including Carl Miller, Y York, Laurie Brooks, Suzan Zeder, Bryony Lavery, Lois Lowry, Angela Betzien, and José Cruz González. These plays go on to receive publication and production throughout the world.
For additional information about the program, visit:http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/music/edtheatre/programs/summer/newplays
By Natalie Mack
Family feuding, religious cults, the strong ties of friendship, and live music made D.W. Gregory’s Salvation Road a must-see, main-stage production in Steinhardt’s Program in Educational Theater. Under the direction of Dr. David Montgomery, the ensemble of Salvation Road worked closely to create a performance that suspended audiences between the past and present as its main character Cliff (Jack Dod) took us along his wild journey to rescue his sister Denise from an oppressive religious cult. His adventure was sprinkled with fond memories of life before Denise disowned her family, which came in the form of flashbacks that Cliff would seamlessly narrate audiences in and out of.
As I played the cult-member and former rock-star sister Denise, I was given the rare opportunity to write music to be played live in the show. This process was a blast as I worked side-by-side with Assistant Director Jess Honovich (who played Denise’s band-mate, Patty) to create original songs written from the perspective of the character, and immersing the audience into the tight-knit, cause-driven, and comical musical world of Patty and Denise.
The process began with me bringing in a couple of original tunes that I had previously written, which we would then tweak and write lyrics for in the mindset of our characters. After reworking the songs, we’d develop vocal harmonies, catchy melody lines for our Casio keyboard player, and Jess would write parts for the Ukulele and Mandolin to top it all off.
My favorite song in the show “We’re Lost Horizon,” a foot-stompin’, mandolin strummin’, folk song, describes the back-story of the band’s name: Lost Horizon. The idea for the song came to me on my walk back from a high-energy rehearsal on a Friday night…I actually started mumbling the words of the chorus into the voice recorder on my iPhone as I walked eastward down Broadway (getting some funny looks from passerbys!). The next day I came into rehearsal with the scattered recording, and David, Jess, Dan (ASM & ensemble member), Talia (SM), and I began improvising on the original riff. Within about a half an hour with Jess on mandolin, and the rest of us coming up with words and stomp-clap rhythms (with Talia at the dry erase board jotting all of this madness down!), we came up with the band’s title song. Needless to say, our process involved serious collaboration, some quick-witted improv, and a whole lot of good old-fashioned fun.
Speaking of improv, the opening weekend of Salvation Road took an unexpected turn, to say the least. After an exciting opening night with the playwright in attendance, news of Hurricane Sandy began flooding headlines across the East coast. By the time the cast and crew were getting ready for our Sunday matinee, the vibe in the theatre (both onstage and off) was unsettling. The brave souls who came to the show entered Pless wearily in hopes of being able to return home safely, while the Salvation Road cast costumed up backstage, pondering the thought: If this storm really hits, this could be our last show… That afternoon our fearless director led us in a warm-up, knowing full well that it could be our last, and even under those ominous circumstances he reminded the cast of the hard-work , talent, and love that was poured into the production, and urged the Salvation Road family to ‘make it count.’
As we all know too well, the storm did in fact hit hard and the long-awaited school shows and second weekend of performances were sadly cancelled. Instead of a week filled with classes and performances for busloads of kids, the cast, crew, and entire NYU campus were faced with power outages, flooding, and little means of communication and transportation. It was not until the university reopened, that there was talk of remounting the show.
In just two days time, Dr. David Montgomery was able to wrangle the cast and crew back together to put on one final show on the Wednesday following the reopening of campus. The cast and crew were only able to get into the theatre 30 minutes prior to curtain. The spectacular cast and crew were costumed, made up, warmed up, and the stage and technical elements were ready to go in just a half hours time – the energy was way, way, up and the cast and crew were incredibly happy to be safely reunited for a final go.
Welcome back to the spring, 2013 semester. As students learn to make, perform, evaluate, apply and teach theatre, it is important that they have opportunities to engage with various artistic endeavors that support the rich course work they take in the Program. As such, there are a number of upcoming activities that I’d like to highlight.
For our spring main stage production, The Program in Educational Theatre is pleased to present The Crucible by Arthur Miller in the Provincetown Playhouse. Directed by Philip Taylor, this promises to be a profoundly significant and contemporary production. The Program recently benefited when Michael Earley, an Arthur Miller scholar and president of Rose Buford College in the UK, offered a fascinating lecture on Miller for the cast and other NYU students. Many Educational Theatre students are involved in The Crucible, from the actors to the production team, so you won’t want to miss this exciting theatrical event beginning March 1st. And check out The Crucible blog at:
Our signature outreach effort, Shakespeare to Go (STG) continues to bring their exceptional performances of Hamlet to schools across NYC, providing the opportunity for young people to experience a Shakespeare play that is meaningful and engaging. Under the direction of Daryl Embry with a large cast of talented student-actors, STG continues to provide inspiration to hundreds of our city’s young people, many of which will see Shakespeare performed for the first time in their lives thanks to the efforts of STG.
Our Program is invested in bringing new works to new audiences as we strive to really identify how the art form shapes and changes the world. To that end, The Writers’ Roundtable emerged in the fall of 2012, focused on investigating the roles of structure and accountability in the creative processes of playwrights at various stages in their careers, honing in on the particular experiences of young writers from our Program, who were commissioned by the university to write full-length, original work. As part of our mission to develop and present new theatre, Roundtable members delivered eight brand new plays in the fall semester, including two pieces from former Educational Theatre students Emily Kaczmarek and Tyler Grimes. Participating playwrights include: Nikkole Salter, Deborah Zoe Laufer, Joe Salvatore and Greg Kotis. Roundtable members will be presenting new work this spring as well, so stay tuned for further information.
Also this semester, Theatrix! has teamed up with students from the Music Composition program to bring original short plays and musicals to life. These performances will take place in the Blackbox theatre, March 29 – 31. Be sure to join us, as this is the first endeavor of its kind for our program. We feel certain this festival will defy expectations.
The Program applauds the work of Uproar Theatre Corp, the NYU Steinhardt club formed by Educational Theatre students, devoted to producing new theatrical works as well as sponsoring workshops, panels, and theatrical competitions for the Steinhardt community. Please check out their blog and upcoming events:
The Program in Educational Theatre hosts yearly conferences in April for practitioners, artists, scholars, researchers and students who are interested in exploring questions that fuel each year’s conference. Last year’s conference, The Forum on Theatre for Young Audiences, was convened by visiting professor Tony Graham and brought folks from around the globe to the NYU campus to explore TYA practices in depth. This year’s conference, Developing New Works for the Theatre promises to add to our prestigious succession of world-renowned conference events, and students are strongly encouraged to attend. Volunteers are always needed at the conferences as well. Information on several unique opportunities to be involved with the event will be published shortly.
We are also moving into the time of year when NYU students look ahead to consider ways in which to be involved with summer courses and projects. In addition to courses that will be offered on campus, the Program will continue running our award-winning New Plays for Young Audiences (NPYA) series, developing three outstanding new TYA plays. Students should be on the lookout for upcoming announcements regarding auditions for the staged play readings happening in the Provincetown Playhouse this June. Students can also take the accompanying three credit course for the series, Theatre Practices: Problems in Play (MPAET-GE.2152-001), which will be taught by Joe Salvatore. After NPYA ends, the Looking for Shakespeare project will bring secondary students from across the country to the NYU campus to work on and produce a Shakespeare play. This will be directed by Dr. Nancy Smithner, and the accompanying course for this project will allow NYU students to have practical, hands-on experiences working with the young people. The accompanying three credit course is called Creating Youth Theatre Productions (MPAET-GE.2982-001) and will also be taught by Nancy Smithner.
The London study abroad curriculum is taking shape with a new initiative in TYA being launched at Rose Bruford College, and with the Heathcote conference at University of Greenwich. Theatre visits to the Globe, the RSC, WestEnd, Unicorn, OilyCart, the fringe and more will also be a part of this program being led by Dr. Philip Taylor. Following the London course, NYU students in Dublin will work with Ireland’s finest drama practitioners and theatre artists, exploring community-engaged theatre with affiliations through Upstate Theatre and the Samuel Beckett Centre at Trinity College in Dublin. Under the leadership of Joe Salvatore, skills to be explored include facilitation, devising, and playwriting/adaptation, along with approaches to using dramatic activities to create context for theatre work. Having just returned from leading the January Intersession program in Puerto Rico with NYU students, I’m happy to report that the Educational Theatre Program continues to be the finest institution in our field for global studies. Our study abroad programs consistently provide transformative experiences for students, and for more insight into Puerto Rico program, please check out the Theatre Practices in Puerto Rico blog with entries written by Educational Theatre students:
So there’s a lot to look forward this semester, and this summer. I encourage Educational Theatre students to get involved wherever possible, for the artistic possibilities of collaboration that involve faculty, students, alumni, and guest artists compel explorations that are the best means for achieving artistic growth. I want to thank the top-notch Educational Theatre adjunct faculty, as well as my colleagues Philip Taylor, Nan Smithner, Joe Salvatore, Amy Cordileone and Jonathan Jones for helping launch another exhilarating year in Educational Theatre. Have a great semester everyone!
David Montgomery, PhD
Director, The Program in Educational Theatre