Program gives voice to student productions

The 17th annual "New Voices" playwright competition premieres this Saturday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. in Tyler Hall’s lab.

Brad Korbesmeyer, a mentor for the playwrights in the competition, helped to start the competition with Mark Cole of the theater department to showcase student playwrights. Korbesmeyer said that it gives the playwrights a chance to see their work developed and the directors a chance to work on a brand new piece with a living playwright.

Each ten minute play is set up as a staged reading, not a production. This means that scripts are not memorized and there is no lighting, costume or set design.

"It focuses more on the script and that’s where we want the focus to be," Korbesmeyer said. He added that the staged reading format is a positive experience for the audience because it’s something different.

"[It] forces the playwright to be concise and decide what they really need to communicate their story," director faculty mentor Jonel Langenfeld-Rial said.

Six plays are chosen by a panel of three faculty and three student judges. Any student on campus in eligible to submit a play. The contest received 25 submissions this year.

"It’s a lot about letting playwrights hear their own works performed," said student director Todd Backus.

After the six plays are chosen, the playwrights are paired with a student director chosen by Langenfeld-Rial. Students are eligible to be directors if they have taken at least the beginning directing course.

"I decide based on what I know about their skill level and interpersonal communication skills," Langenfeld-Rial said.

"I think it’s really good to work with the playwrights," said student director Sarah Sterling.

One of the things that makes this year unique, Langenfeld-Rial said, is that there are six directors this year, while in years past there have been as few as two.

"My belief is that this taps into a skill that an actor or director may not get anywhere else which is interaction with the writer that may have impact on the text," Korbesmeyer said.