Student voices heard with competition

New Voices 2011

Starting February 19, at 7:30 p.m., Oswego State will host its 18th annual 10-page playwriting competition, "New Voices." The competition is one of the longest, continuous short playwright contests in the country, according to Brad Korbesmeyer, associate professor director of creative writing at Oswego State and one of the judges of the competition.

The competition involves students directing plays by other students and reading the final works for an audience. Korbesmeyer said there is a limit to the page amount because "the challenge is to try to accomplish something significant in a short amount of time."

Any genre, from science fiction to thrillers and even controversial dramas, is allowed to be submitted into the contest, but comedy always seems to make a major appearance because, according to Korbesmeyer, "comedy always has a ready audience."

First-time winning playwright Kevin Leonard said he preferred to write comedy.

"If I write anything serious, it turns sarcastic and into comedy anyway, even if it’s not actually funny," said Leonard.

However, Kate Boswell, who is also a winning playwright, said she prefers realism because she connects personally to that genre. She said she tries not to define her plays, however, because she feels like that would try "to force something on it, rather than just letting it be."

The judges each have their own aesthetic in making their decision, however, all of the judges look for a sense of completion and that the story "has allowed full-bodied characters and thoughts to emerge," according to Korbesmeyer.

When asked if nerves can be a problem before or during the competition, Leonard said he does not feel nervous; he said anything he enters into the contest is something he is willing to have read or performed.

"It literally means to make something public," Leonard said. "So I’m pretty comfortable with anything I submit."

Boswell, however, said she gets a little nervous when she submits her plays, as well as right before the performance because she wants people to like her work.

"Over the years, I’ve had good directors who have respected my plays and brought them to life, sometimes even better than I could have imagined," Boswell said. "But there’s a point where I just need to trust the process and enjoy the show."

Both Leonard and Boswell enjoy the competition because of the exposure it provides for their work. Boswell said she enjoys how every part of the contest is done by other students.

"Plays are written by students, directed by students and performed by students," Boswell said. "It’s a great forum to show what students can really do."

"New Voices" will occur on February 19 and 20 at 7:30 p.m. in the Lab Theatre of Tyler Hall. Aside from winning, students can establish a sense of pride from this competition.