Monday, July 23, 2012

And The Winner Is....

Have you ever wondered how new plays get from the page to the stage?   I got a glimpse of the process last week-end when I went to the New Play Contest Fundraiser at Theatre Conspiracy in Fort Myers--and I got to vote on which of three plays I thought should be produced!    Theatre Conspiracy has been putting on its new play contest for fourteen years and has it down to an art.  The parameters for the competition are straightforward.  The submission must be a full-length play with no more than eight characters and modest technical demands.  No musicals, please.   The winner of the contest receives a whopping $700 and a full production of his or her work.  This year 311 plays were submitted for consideration.  A group of readers pared the pile down to a manageable number for artistic director Bill Taylor to read.   Taylor winnowed the list down to three, and excerpts from each of the three were read by actors (who may or may not be cast in the play that's ultimately produced) at the fundraiser.

The first play was Tower of Magic by Tess Light.  The set-up is that a woman has gone home to announce her engagement to her family.  This is a bit of a delicate task since she hasn't even mentioned that she's dating anyone despite the fact that she's been in the relationship for four years. By the end of the second scene, we've been introduced to all of the family members--as well as the fiance--and to say that the family is quirky would be the understatement of the year.  The readers/actors were terrific, and I was definitely engaged.  When the reading was over, I wanted to know what was going to happen next. 

The second play was Language of Flowers by Gavin Kayner.  In the opening scene, two sisters have just hidden a dead body in a refrigerator.  Each sister lives in her own weird little world.  Maria escapes into faux motherhood with a doll whose needs she cares for.  Emma escapes by writing romantic/pornographic letters to "gentleman" pen pals, never expecting to meet them in real life.  There's a knock on the door, and the sisters find themselves entertaining an escaped convict who exchanged letters with Emma.  The readers/actors for this play were also great, but I found the characters strange rather than quirky and was more than ready for the reading to come to an end.

The final play was Picture of Dorian Gray by Marsha Lee Sheiness.  Since we only saw a couple of scenes from this play, it's unclear whether it is an adaptation of Oscar Wilde's book by the same name or just uses Wilde's book as its inspiration.  I haven't read the book (nor have I seen the 1945 movie) but I did know enough to recognize Dorian's wistful comment that he wished his portrait could age in his place.  The readers/actors in this reading were not as strong as in the others (although the actor reading the part of Basil was great), but I still felt that this play had a lot of potential.    

Once the readings were over, ballots were handed out to the audience to vote on which of the three plays should be produced.   In deference to the tradition of the secret ballot, I won't disclose which play got my support.  The winner was TOWER OF MAGIC, and it will be produced at Theatre Conspiracy  in October.    It will be great fun to see the play in its entirety, especially having had a peek into the process of getting it onto the stage.   Maybe I'll see you there!    


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