The Discovery New Theatre Festival is bring a free and unique event that allows the audience to help playwrights perfect their unpublished work.
“These plays are still in the act of becoming. By being an audience member to new play readings your laughter, your attention, your applause, even your boredom, will help shape what the play will become before it is produced.” Thomas Horan, assistant professor of playwriting and new works development said. “These workshops need an audience. And in return, you get an experience unlike any other, a chance to see a play that might be the next great work.”
This years finalists are "Honors Students" and "The Veils," with the winners work being a selected production to perform as part of Ball State University’s season and as a full entry into the Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival.
This years festival is being put together by the Department of Theatre and Dance with the help of the Ball State Women’s Fund, Discovery, and is meant to promote new works created by playwrights. The event is an opportunity for these playwrights to further improve their work and get feedback from the audience, professionals and other students involved.
After 300 submissions were accepted from all across the nation, there were only two finalists chosen. While 15 students began work on the festival with Horan, he estimates that the number is nearly four times that after counting the other students who volunteered time as actors, stage managers and assistant directors.
In preparation for the festival this weekend, the chosen playwrights are collaborating with the students, playwright Steven Dietz and the Artistic Director of the Seattle Children’s Theatre, Courtney Sale to see what works and what doesn't.
“As an audience I don’t think we always appreciate how much thought goes into each line," Horan said. "The level of fine tuning that happens in these workshops is what turns a good show into a great one.”
The festival will begin Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the University Theatre where a reading of last year’s festival winner, "Bunkerville", will take place. While the post-apocalyptic musical will only be read by actors at this event, it's a testament to what this festival can do for ones work. After winning last year, the musical was added to the Department Theatre and Dance’s 2017-18 season, similar to this years winner.
A reading of the finalists will take place Friday in Strother Theatre. The first reading will begin at noon and audience members will experience "Honors Students," a play by Mariah MacCarthy. This play is about two friends with a volatile relationship that takes a turn for the worst when a YouTube sensation threatens their relationship.
At 4 p.m., the next finalist, "The Veils," by Hope Villanueva, will be read. "The Veils" tells the story of a former marine returning home who has a lot on her plate including coming to terms with what she experienced in Afghanistan, family resentment and planning her wedding.
"'Honor Students' and 'The Veils' made it through a rigorous process, where students looked for compelling characters, strong stories and fascinating themes,” Horan said. “Even among the top submissions, these two plays stood out as plays with unique voices that could bring something new to campus, the Muncie area and the national theater.”
Even after prevailing under such scrutiny, the plays will be subject to a question and answer session from the audience after their readings. This will give the playwrights further feedback by giving the perspective of those who haven’t been working on it for a significant amount of time.
“We chose to work with them because they are extremely supportive of new works and often times will have either national or Midwest premieres at their theatre as part of their season,” Interim Managing Director for the Department of Theatre and Dance Sarah Jenkins said.
The final event in this festival will be at 2:30 pm on May 21 at the Phoenix Theatre in Indianapolis, where there were a presentation of the plays highlights.