Denver Wows Agains

This was my third time attending the Colorado New Play Summit and Denver Center Theatre Company’s 10th Annual event.

summitAccording to one of my dinner companions on the first evening, a local who has been a subscriber “for a hundred years”, the first year of the Summit they were literally handing out free tickets in the streets to get people to the readings. Now, it has made Denver what American Theatre Magazine’s Diep Tran recently called “a must see stop for new play development”.  This year, the Summit expanded to two weekends to help meet the demand for tickets and to allow the playwrights extra time to develop their work and learn from audience reaction to the readings.

Personal Highlight #1

First Lunch: sitting next to nationally-renowned playwright Paula Vogel and talking about her work teaching playwriting to veterans and prisoners and her new in-process play Indecent

As in the past, the high quality of the plays read during the Summit underscore that the Denver Center team have a touch of in-house curation genius and an optimal system for the care and feeding (both literally and artistically) of the artists.  It was clear from just being there that this is a truly enjoyable event for everyone involved from playwrights to crew to audience to industry attendees.  In addition to seeing two world premiere productions (of readings from last year’s Summit) of Benediction by Eric Schmiedl and Appoggiatura by James Still, there were four new play readings, diverse and diverting:

  • Holy Laughter by Catherine Trieschmann — a comedy about a young and single female Episcopal priest and her efforts to figure out how she fits in with the church and her congregation
  • The There There by Jason Gray Platt — a fascinating tale of a couple’s complex lifelong relationship with a startling techno twist
  • Fade by Tanya Saracho — a look at an accidental friendship between a television writer and a janitor which, among many other wonderous things, allows us to eavesdrop on two Mexican Americans talking about being Mexican American in conversations most of us would never otherwise hear
  • The Nest by Theresa Rebeck — a witty ensemble piece set in a beautiful antique neighborhood saloon, which may or may not soon be sold off in pieces, potentially affecting the neighborhood regulars in different ways and provoking some very funny, smart and thoughtful conversation
appagiatura

“Appoggiatura” at Denver Center Theatre Company

Personal Highlight #2

Appoggiatura: seeing my favorite play reading from last year’s Summit transform into a gorgeously produced gem that fulfilled all of its promise, and more

In addition to the plays and readings, the Summit always includes the Late Night Playwrights Slam where seven or eight playwrights are invited to read a few minutes of anything they want.  Usually, it’s from a work-in-progress, although this year Catherine Trieschmann read a very funny piece she had written for her regular column on HowlRound.com and a few writers read from completed work.  The casual event is accompanied by popcorn and beverages.  The audience is friendly and everyone has a grand time. (The best part is often the rambling introductions the writers make before they start to read — quite fun.)

2015 Playwrights Slam

2015 Playwrights Slam

Personal Highlight #3

Theresa Rebeck

Theresa Rebeck

Slam:  Front row seat as Theresa Rebeck killed reading pages 15-25 (or so) from a play in progress

 

Personal Highlight #4

11:30 p.m. Friday: short walk back to hotel with my friend Janne after first day (2 readings, 2 meals, one fully produced play plus Late Night Playwrights’ Slam) amidst thick soft huge snowflakes

At the Summit dinner on Saturday night, Teresa Eyring of Theatre Communications Group gave a short talk and said she thinks we today have a “strong eco-system of theatre where new plays are not limited to audiences were they are first developed”.  While I think to a certain extent that is true, and agree that the list of resources and play festivals she gave as examples of support of new play development are great, I think there is a long way to go before our national system is strong enough.  Too many terrific new plays struggle to find a second or third production even after a successful world premiere and many deserving don’t make it that far.

Personal Highlight #5

Playing Champion: buttonholing Denver Center Theatre Literary Associate and convincing him to read a play I love with a view to having DCTC produce it

A bonus event at this year’s Summit  industry weekend was a mini-version of Paula Vogel’s playwriting bootcamp workshop.  I wasn’t able to attend but I have a feeling it was a Personal Highlight for a lot of people!

Personal Highlight #6

Tanya Saracho

Tanya Saracho

Final Reading: seeing Fade by Tanya Saracho, meeting her briefly and knowing someday, somehow I will see that remarkable play on stage at TheatreWorks of Silicon Valley

I guess I should go ahead and book my tickets for next year.

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