From Soup to Nuts: Choosing a TYA Play Development Season

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 The plays must be unpublished and unproduced.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.
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.

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

 

Audition Announcement: Brief Encounter

NOËL COWARD’S BRIEF ENCOUNTER


This play deftly explores the wild anticipation, tenderness, and heartbreak of an illicit English romance, circa 1938. Alec and Laura meet at a London train station. Both are happily married; both are content to be so; and both are naïve to their own latent desires for intimate connection, as well as the unbearable pain of unrequited love. Emma Rice’s adaptation of BRIEF ENCOUNTER integrates the songs of Noël Coward with his timeless, personal, and poignant text, bringing us one of the most exhilarating romances to hit the stage.

ADAPTED BY: Emma Rice
DIRECTED BY: Amy Cordileone
PERFORMANCE DATES: February 26 – March 6, 2016 (Provincetown Playhouse)

 

REHEARSALS BEGIN: Saturday, January 23, 2016

—————————-

LOOKING FOR: ACTORS, SINGERS, & MUSICIANS

 

Performers of all ages, races, ethnicities, sizes, & genders are encouraged to audition.

AUDITIONS:

Sunday, December 6, 2015

10 AM – 2 PM (10 min. appts.)
Pless Acting Lab

CALLBACKS:

December 6, 2015

3 PM – 7 PM (As Needed)
Pless Acting Lab

 

Email Amy Cordileone to request an audition appointment: amy.cord@nyu.edu

—————————-

WHAT TO PREPARE:

  • Text: Sides will be provided upon confirmation of audition appointment. No monologue needed. All roles require a British dialect – either Received Standard or Southeast/Estuary English (see the CHARACTER DESCRIPTIONS below). Dialect references available.

 

  • Music: Please prepare 1-minute (16 bars) of an early-20th century standard (Gershwin, Porter, Berlin, Coward, etc.). Feel free to email with questions or clarifications as needed. Piano accompaniment will be available. If you play an instrument and can accompany yourself, please do so (note: if you anything other than piano, please bring your own instrument to the audition).

Scripts will be available for checkout & perusal beginning Wednesday, Nov. 11, at 35 West 4th Street, Room 1207 (12th floor).

EdD – Educational Theatre in Colleges and Communities – Practice-based Doctorate – Deadline Approaching

NYU’s EdD program in Educational Theatre prepares the next generation of arts professionals.

The EdD program is a 42 point program which provides specific pathways for specialized study at the doctoral level in three areas of educational theatre praxis: Drama in Education, Applied Theatre, and Theatre for Young Audiences and Play Production. It is a practice-based doctorate with an emphasis on arts-based research methods.

Why study Educational Theatre at NYU?

Engage with leading educators and practitioners

  • Immerse yourself in course work and conduct research with a world-renowned faculty in arts-based methods and practice as research.

Get connected

  • Our global partnerships with leading cultural houses and educational institutions provide unparalleled opportunities for scholarship and practice.

Join our community

  • Located in Greenwich Village, the hub of international arts happenings, our program is intimate and supportive within one of the largest and most innovative private research universities in the world.

The Application Deadline for fall 2016 is December 1st.

For More Information, visit:

Target Audience

The Ed.D. in Educational Theatre is designed for individuals who intend to pursue leadership positions in the practicing professions, preparing candidates for senior positions as principals, superintendents, arts administrators, researchers, curriculum developers, policy analysts, educational consultants, and theatre practitioners.

Program Goals

Through a broadly designed and individualized curriculum, students in the Ed.D. in Educational Theatre will develop their artistic praxis and the leadership skills needed to transform today’s learning communities in a variety of educational, cultural, and vocational contexts.

The Ed.D. program emphasizes collaborative and practitioner-based study, providing comprehensive research and artistic training that equips graduates with the knowledge and skills to have significant impact in the worlds of educational theatre, arts policy, and practice.

In particular, students will develop authority in one of three areas of specialization:

•              Drama in Education (i.e., studies in drama/theatre curriculum, special education, integrated arts, assessment and evaluation)

•              Applied Theatre (i.e., studies in community-based theatre, theatre of the oppressed, the teaching artist, diversity and inclusion)

•              Theatre for Young Audiences and Play Production (i.e., studies in acting, directing, dramaturgy, playwriting, dramatic literature, arts-based research methodologies)

As a culminating study, students design and conduct a practitioner-based study under the direction of doctoral program faculty, developing a project drawn from one or more of the program’s specializations (as listed above) and are encouraged to complete their program in five years.

How to Apply

Applications for the Ed.D. in Educational Theatre are accepted from candidates with demonstrated interest in practice-based research. A satisfactorily completed master’s degree is expected prior to application along with a portfolio of work demonstrating arts based research credentials, professional arts experience, and leadership in the field.

For more detail on admissions requirements or to apply, please visit: http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/graduate_admissions/guide/edtc/edd

For further information about the program or its curricula, please contact:

Dr. Jonathan Jones at jpj201@nyu.edu

Posted on | Posted in Uncategorized |

Up and Away: “One of the Hottest Tickets in Town”

October was very much the Up and Away month. Previously featured in The New York Times, the immersive theatrical production has been enjoying extraordinary success and gained exciting media attention.

On October 4, WCBS-TV’s Diane Macedo interviewed Lincoln Center Education Executive Director Russell Granet and Trusty Sidekick’s Artistic Director Jonathan Shmidt Chapman (both alumni from the Program in Educational Theatre). A week later, Laura Collins-Hughes in The New York Times reviewed Up and Away in its Theater section. The review was glowingly positive, stating that “generosity and gentleness of spirit may be the two most striking features of… this joyous new show.” The reviewer also took note of Up and Away’s painstaking attention to technical detail. “[This] multisensory experience is a stellar example of how to connect with an underserved audience by identifying obstacles… Every element of the show has been made with the audience in mind, from the warm, tuneful greeting in the lobby…to the set’s walls.”

On October 23, WNBC Nightly News featured a segment on what it called “one of the hottest tickets in town for a theater experience unlike any other.” WNBC and anchor Anne Thompson interviewed Mr. Chapman and Mr. Granet and focused the camera on the performance, with its visibly enchanted audience and a deeply moved mother who fought back tears to say: “It’s so nice to go someplace… where you’re welcome.”

Up and Away is not merely a show that makes the effort to accommodate a special audience, but an experience entirely designed for that audience. Two years of thoughtful observation and work with students on the autism spectrum were a part of the development process, and in that sense, Up and Away was designed by the audience.

Click here to learn more about Up and Away.

Posted on | Posted in Alumni News |

Regina Ress – “Her Story, Your Story, Our Story”

World renowned storyteller and Educational Theatre faculty member Regina Ress recently wrote an article about a workshop she gave for formerly incarcerated women that was published by the Healing Story Alliance in their journal Diving in the Moon. It is accompanied by gorgeous art work.

http://healingstory.org/publications/diving-in-the-moon-journal-2015/her-story-your-story-our-story/

Tales of the Lost Formicans – Last Chance

#NYUformicans has four performances remaining. Get your tickets now! http://tickets.nyu.edu/single/eventDetail.aspx?p=2574 … …

Congratulations to the cast, crew, and director, Nan Smithner, of the spectacular Tales of the Lost Formicans. I’ve just come from the first of our two student matinees which had our audience emotionally engaged with a family on the brink and thoroughly entertained with songs, 80s costumes, and an especially physical performance from an ensemble of aliens. They sing; they dance; they narrate; they abduct–this production is not to be missed! And with the Halloween festivities coming this weekend, I might encourage you to get into the spirit with your own 80s flavored ensemble so that you too can travel back in time with us. – Jonathan Jones

Four performances remain:
Thursday, October 29 – 8PM
Friday, October 30 – 8PM
Saturday, October 31 – 8PM
Sunday, November 1 – 3PM

Q&A with Constance Congdon

While preparing the resource guide for our upcoming production of Tales of the Lost Formicans, Jonathan Jones sent some questions to playwright, Constance Congdon.

What was your inspiration when you wrote TALES OF THE LOST FORMICANS?

I don’t believe in inspiration, altho’ it has been known to strike WHILE I’m writing and sometimes it’s good. I had just come off of a huge adaptation project and decided that my next play would be for me. I also had started thinking about what culture was I from? Well, I’m from Formica.

What are you hoping teenage audiences, or any audience, will take away from seeing this play?

I hope any audience member would enjoy and be moved by it. It’s about transience.

As you celebrate the 25th anniversary of the publication of the play, has its meaning changed over time?

You know, it has remained a true picture of this time in which we are living.

What advice would you give to young people interested in a future career as a playwright?

First of all, “career” is the wrong word. Would you talk about someone’s career as a poet? Playwriting is a calling. What to do? Just write plays and don’t judge them. Enjoy your own work. Genius is just doing your work on a particularly lucky day. Persistance. And fun.

Do you have other plays that may be appropriate for young audiences?

They are published by Smith and Kraus and are in the many volumes that Craig Slaight of the Young Conservatory of American Conservatory Theater has published over the years. He’s gotten many major playwrights to write for young audiences. Mine are:  MOONTEL SIX; THE AUTOMATA PIETA; NIGHTENGALES.

Tales of the Lost Formicans opens Friday night, October 23. Tickets can be purchased here:

http://events.nyu.edu/#event_id/68803/view/event

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lowell and Nancy Swortzell Theatre Arts Collection, Child Drama Collection, Arizona State University

In preparation for the 50th Anniversary of the Program and the 2016 Forum in Educational Theatre, we are working hard on a special project: a timeline of 50 years in Educational Theatre. When completed, this timeline will live on the Educational Theatre website. For now, we would like to draw your attention to one of our resources: the Lowell and Nancy Swortzell Theatre Arts Collection, Child Drama Collection, Arizona State University. About 15 years ago, Lowell and Nancy Swortzell donated all of their papers, pictures, pamplets, etc. to the Child Drama Collection at Arizona State University to preserve the legacy, not only of our innovative founders, but also of our Program, the first of its kind in the world. This way, researchers will have access to materials documenting the history of our Program in perpetuity. A number of these images will be featured in the timeline, but here are a preview of what’s to come:

The Bystander: A Portrait of Apathy

By Suzanne Sweeney, MA ’01

My drama class is working on a play called “The Bystander: A Portrait of Apathy.” The play deals with teen harassment and bullying. The School Climate Committee,(an organization consisting of administrators, child study team, guidance counselors, student assistance counselor and teachers) asked them to produce this production to be viewed by other sending districts. It was reviewed  by my English supervisor and accepted into the drama curriculum. This play received a grant from the Educational Committee of Rumson Fair Haven for the royalties.

Regarding student resource support – the students were initially asked to refer to the school web page on School Climate. They were introduced to a HIB form, articles and videos dealing with the bullying and harassment as well a representative from the School Climate Committee addressing them on the subject as relating to our school environment. Other resources from a dramatic perspective were:March Cassady’s An Introduction to The Art of Theatre, Jonothan Neelands and Tony Goode’s Structuring Drama Work and Drama for Learning: Dorothy Heathcote’s Mantle of the Expert.

The class is producing the play by themselves – from casting, blocking, props, etc. Every day the class begins with a production meeting on the objectives. Theses objectives were provided by a teacher generated timeline. They play has 3 student directors which had to be interviewed by the production committee( in role). They had to present their qualifications to the class. Students selected an underscore to assist them with character development. The music is associated to the issue being performed. Every student shared their music during a production meeting. Students have also added drama conventions in the blocking- chanting, freeze frame, etc. This they believed “made the dramatic work more powerful- it sends a clear message.”  They felt that the narratives could be more interesting if they were also presented in a pantomime format.

Once the students felt comfortable with the dramatic piece, it was time for the Film Club to engage in the class and make decisions regarding the filming process – lights, camera action!! They held their own meetings with their advisor making decisions. Lastly, I would like to mention that during this whole process the students were maintaining a daily journal log. This log was divided into sections: Objective, Accomplishments and Personal Reflection.