This November the NEWvember New Plays Festival (which I co-produce) is celebrating its 5th year! Wow! In that time we’ve read thousands of plays and will be presenting our 30th new play reading this weekend (November 5-8). It is remarkable how much work goes into one weekend. Early in the year we go over the timeline, we review what happened the year before and what changes we can make. Then, come spring, we put out our call for submissions, we launch the submission form on the festival website and we assemble our reading team. The blind submissions come in and round one reading begins and four months or so on, lots of debating and a second round reading the shortlisted plays later, we have a line-up of new plays. By then we are full into per-production mode. Marketing, casting, coordinating artists and local housing, advertising, ticketing and we are full speed ahead until the festival is over on the Sunday. Of course we still have to apply for funding and close out the year’s festival before we move on to the next one. All in all we are talking 8-10 months of work for a four-day festival. And yet, we love it!
It is a whirlwind weekend full of artistic spirit. I’ve been inspired time and time again by the playwrights and the stories that they have chosen to tell, and feel truly lucky to be part of bringing them to a wider audience. Though it is impossible to narrow it down as there are so many great plays we’ve presented, here is a list of six NEWvember Plays from the past four festivals that have stuck with me…if you don’t know these playwrights, I suggest you take a look!
In no particular order:
1. A Bright Wind Over a Bent World by Meghan Kennedy
All the men in Lyle’s family have been struck by lightning, except for him. His father, Gene, has never let him forget it. As another storm approaches, Lyle will be forced to choose between his legacy and his last chance with the only woman he ever loved.
2. Comes a Faery by James McLindon
A little girl is left with a less-than-willing aunt, and visited by a cantankerous Irish fairy who may or may not have escaped from a favorite storybook. Has he come to keep the lonely child company…or to lead her down darker paths?
3. Keep Calm and Carry On by Melisa Annis
A married couple in Wales, struggling to come to terms with their son’s death during the Iraq War, encounter a whole new challenge when a mysterious stranger with a very special “delivery” comes knocking on their door.
4. Brutal Selfish Rattlesnake by Aaron Weissman
In 1880’s New Mexico, Tills Jasper just murdered town dead-beat George Grillit with the business end of a pick axe. Now George’s ghost is stalking his murderer with a doomsday guitar. And when a notorious silver prospector shows up at Tills’ door, he’ll have to fend off both the living and the dead to save his underground fortune.
5. Green River by Rachel White
Edith lives in a small, defunct Kentucky mining town. Charlie is a lonely drifter who senses her repressed ambition – and aims to draw it out.
6. How the Dog Runs by Dan O’Neil
A young couple intending to celebrate their engagement and meet her family, instead find themselves facing an imminent death at a lakeside cabin on the Fourth of July.
(Not to mention The Long Wet Grass by Seamus Scanlon which I have had the privilege of performing in full productions in New York and the UK!)