‘Performance laboratory’ pumps plays to life

It’s all about creative collaboration at the third annual New Plays Festival happening this weekend in the Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre.

“Working on a new piece is exciting for everybody,” said professor Leslie Jacobson, the director of this year’s showcase. “It’s a celebration of creativity and the actors get to be the model for how it will be done, and get to perform in strong roles.”

Six original plays, all written by GW students or recent alumni, will be seen for the first time when the show opens on Saturday night. Three of the plays have been in rehearsals for the past month and will be performed with full costume and sets. The three others will be performed in a staged reading.

It is a “performance laboratory” of sorts, said Jacobson, in which aspiring playwrights can see the script they worked on for a full semester come alive on stage.

Though the process for creating a performance-ready product took time, rewrites and gobs of creative input, Jacobson said it was important for amateur playwrights to continually develop their script.

“It’s not playwriting, its play re-writing that makes a good piece of work,” she said.

Although this is Jacobson’s first time directing the festival, she has a lifetime of experience in theatre. The former chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance has worked in theatres around the country for 36 years and is the founding artistic director of Horizons Theatre, which stages plays written by women. She has been a partner of Bokamoso Life Center in South Africa for almost 10 years, helping current students in the department work with underprivileged young people in the post-Apartheid nation.

All of the plays being performed this weekend deal with loss and new beginnings. Although it was not intentional to choose plays displaying these common themes, Jacobson said it was unsurprising.

“Playwriting is a good way to find out what is on people’s minds, and gives them a way to release their inner emotions,” Jacobson said.

“The Librarians,” by graduate Darren Miller, tells the story of Mowgli, a 22-year-old who lives in a library. The play centers on the day the building is scheduled to be bulldozed. Jacobson said the show has an “absurdist feel” to it.

“Saying Goodbye,” written by Meagen Moreland, another recent graduate, portrays a university student coping with the death of her grandmother while studying abroad. According to Jacobson, the play is “naturalistic in style.”

Senior Vanessa Fitzgerald’s play, “What Doesn’t Kill You,” focuses on a woman and her sister, a young professional. Costume designer Valerie Smith described the play as “a journey chronicling where people are in life and how they want to define the meaning of their lives.”

When the festival opens this weekend, it will be theatre at its most original, and its most raw.

“This isn’t something you could ever see on film,” said Jacobson.

The New Plays Festival will take place on Oct. 10, 11, 16, and 17 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 11 and 18 at 2:00 p.m at the Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre. Student price is $10.

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