New Voices for the Theater participants. (Photo by Tom Topinka)
After participating in a two-week residency, eight talented high school playwrights will bring their original one-act plays to the stage for the 27th annual New Voices for the Theater Festival of New Works, to be held at VCU's Shafer Street Playhouse July 8-9.
New Voices for the Theater is a high school play writing program under SPARC (School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community), which cultivates young writers from across the state of Virginia. This year the competition celebrates its 27th year in Richmond, an outstanding accomplishment.
Out of 150 plays submitted, just eight were chosen and will be premiered as a stage reading.
Before these talented writers can premier their plays, they attended a two-week residency and received the opportunity to work closely with professional theater artists and E.M. Lewis, an award-winning playwright, teacher and librettist. Lewis, who first appeared as a Playwright-in-Residence for New Voices in 2012, was brought back to mentor the students and assist them in reaching their highest potential.
Program Director and accomplished theater guru Laine Satterfield says Lewis is a dear friend. “She is very hands-on with the students, creative and generous.”
Satterfield has performed in, taught, choreographed, directed and devised a number of national and international theater productions. For nine years she has worked with high school students as the program director, and says each year is rewarding. “I get to see the look on their faces when they hear the applause, and I cry every time.”
During their residency each student revised their play under the wing of Lewis and the professional theater artists, and took trips to theater productions and museums. But it wasn't not all fun and games. Daily reading and writing assignments were also required.
Previous winners of the playwright competition have gone on to universities such as Otterbein, Virginia Tech and University of Virginia. Many return to offer their assistance and bask in memories. A select few even carve out time to return every year to watch the program that single-handedly opened so many doors for them.
As for what the audience can expect to see, Satterfield says, “All eight plays are vastly different.” The themes range from sci-fi and Baroque, to forbidden love and a character's Fallopian tube.
Funding for the New Voices for the Theater is provided by The E. and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation and Dominion Resources. SPARC relies on generous contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations to promote this program statewide. While the performance is free and open to the public, a $5 donation is suggested at the door. The performance is set to begin at 7 p.m. and doors will open a half hour before each show.
Winning Playwrights of the 27th annual New Voices Festival of New Works
“From Where Trees No Longer Grow” by Bethany Matthews, Woodbridge Sr. High School
“If It Ain’t Baroque, Don’t Fix It” by Elizabeth de Jager, York County School of the Arts
“My Name is Sarah” by Daniel Kunkel, Appomattox Regional Governor’s School
“Shower Caps and Other Essentials” by Emma North, York County School of the Arts
“The Elephant in the Womb” by Brittany Howel, Appomattox Regional Governor’s School
“The Last Stop” by Kieran Rundle, Albemarle High School
“The Whitfield Case” by Rebecca McGovern, Loudoun County High School
“Who Left Who” by Jason Itkin, Langley High School