Capital Fringe has become a major force in DC and the Source Festival has been surging of late, so the appetite for new work in the theatre community is increasing every year. It’s no surprise then that one of the most anticipated theatrical events year after year is the Kennedy Center’s hosting of the Page-to-Stage Festival.
Now in its 12th year, the festival gives theatregoers the chance at a first look of brand new work, many of which will be produced for the upcoming 2013-14 season. Productions as diverse as Samuel Beckett meeting the Marx Brothers to the pressures of Queen Elizabeth’s ailing court painter Levina Terling to an improvised musical that discovers the songs underneath the cover of ordinary life will be presented.
“Theatre companies throughout the area use Page-to-Stage in a productive way,” says Gregg Henry, curator of the event. “They take a script that they are committed to producing or are in development with the playwright, and they use it for a public reading. It’s an opportunity to expose a theatre to a new audience and hear feedback from a different crowd of people than might normally see its plays.”
The Page-to-Stage Festival will run Saturday, Aug. 31 thru Monday, Sept. 2, and showcase more than 40 theaters from the D.C. metropolitan area in a series of free readings and open rehearsals of plays and musicals being developed by local, regional, and national playwrights, librettists, and composers.
Here are some highlights:
– The Kennedy Center Theater for Young Audiences and VSA are co-producing a reading of Mockingbird by Julie Jensen. The two had already had successful collaborations with Nobody’s Perfect, a bilingual musical based on a book by Marlee Matlin, and last year’s production of Jason Invisible, although this is the first in Page-to-Stage.
“This is based on a story by Kathryn Erskine, a national book award winner, partly about a young girl with Asperger’s Syndrome and we are trying to tell her story,” Kim Peter Kovac, director of Theater for Young Audiences, says. “We liked the story and thought her voice was very compelling.”
Directed by Tracy Callahan, this will be the first public reading of the play and all involved are looking forward to getting audience feedback.
“We have been involved with Page-to-Stage often and I think it’s fabulous for theatre lovers because it’s all free and there’s so much fabulous work happening,” Kovac says. “It’s a real potpourri of pieces. What I think is great is that it’s pieces at various lengths of their journeys: some are first drafts, but some have gone through several re-writes, so you get to see work in all states of progress in a lovely and formal atmosphere.”
– Synetic Theatre will present a mixed movement/text version of Oscar Wilde’s classic The Picture of Dorian Gray.
“We started working on the script earlier in 2013 and have been in rehearsals devising scenes and inventing movements for it since early August,” says the theatre’s artistic associate Ben Cunis. “There’s no telling what’s going to come out by the time we get to the Kennedy Center—it’s all part of the Synetic process of developing shows as we go.”
Fearing the ravages of time and realizing the impermanence of youth, Dorian Gray makes a fateful wish—that his almost supernaturally lifelike portrait grow old while he remains forever young and beautiful.
“For us, it gives our performers a chance to try out the movements and scenes in front of an audience and allows them to feel the energy in what they are doing, in what we have developed,” Cunis says. “Much like a playwright listening to a first read-through, devising actors and movement performers need a first audience to get a sense of feedback on their work.”
Cunis appreciates that the Page-to-Stage festival fosters a culture of developing new work.
“A lot of American theater is wrapped up in the staging of previously developed material—a lot of it quite brilliant,” he says. “But we love the idea that DC is becoming a place where new work is born, where seeds are planted and grown.”
– The Baltimore Rock Opera Society will be participating in the festival for the first time with its first-ever touring show.
“We will be performing a reading along with all of the original music and songs (read: live band) of a new version of BROS’ first show, Gründlehämmer,” says Jared Margulies, co-founder of the group. “We will be touring in D.C., Philadelphia, and Baltimore in early 2014, so we’ve been working to edit and trim down our original production into a leaner, meaner touring version, and this is the script that we will present at Page-to-Stage.”
Gründlehämmer is a classic epic hero’s quest, which tells the story of a young farm boy in a magical musical kingdom whose destiny is far greater than he knows. There is a giant six-armed beast, an evil dark king, and lots of guitar shredding.
“This is an all-original rock opera written by the founding members of BROS between 2007 and 2009, which first premiered in 2009 in Baltimore at the 2640 Space, and was remounted several months later in the same venue in early 2010,” Margulies says. “This is a phenomenal opportunity for us to get feedback on our new version. We look forward to conversations and reactions from the audience about the show and music as we will continue to improve and edit the show over the next few months leading up to the touring production in early 2014.”
Other notable productions locals will be interested in include the Playwrights Group of Baltimore’s It Happened in the Harbor, a series of 10-minute plays discussing Baltimore harbors; VSA Playwrights showcasing its nine winners of the 29th Annual Playwright Discovery Performance competition, celebrated with excerpts of a few scripts performed as staged readings; and an afternoon of Inklings and an Inkwell showcase, which will include six 10-minute readings of local playwrights works in development with The Inkwell including plays by Danielle Mohlman, Noelle Vinas, Kitty Felde, Rick Massamo, Jason Wells, and Gina Fierra.
“Since the beginning, Page-to-Stage has offered a great mix of theatrical productions at all stages of development and our audience appreciates what the theatre companies are trying to do,” Henry says. “It’s not easy to get plays produced, so playwrights relish getting their work in front of an audience and the theatre companies appreciate the chance to get feedback on the plays they are in development on or are considering going down that path.”