Each April, Boston Playwrights’ Theatre presents New Noises, the Massachusetts Young Playwrights’ Project Festival of 10-minute plays written by Massachusetts high school students. Plays are directed and performed script-in-hand by professional actors and directors in collaboration with the playwrights.
When professional theatre artists go to work on a brand-new script written by a teenager, something magical occurs! For the professionals, working at the festival is a chance to rejuvenate—to perform with the kind of dedication and abandon that reminds many of them why they chose to work in theatre in the first place. For the audience, it is a rare look into the hearts and minds of young people—a perspective on youth culture unavailable when filtered through the adult-run media. For the playwrights, production at the festival may well be the first time their work has been taken seriously by professionals. Among their peers, featured playwrights take on a greater status, and their writing receives the kind of attention normally showered upon star athletes.
The Massachusetts Young Playwrights’ Project is supported by the Boston University Center for the Humanities.
Participating schools collaborate with a playwriting mentor during a school residency where students write and develop a 10-minute play under the guidance of their professional playwright.
The festival is not a competition, but a celebration of student work. During the festival, two featured plays from each school receive a 90-minute rehearsal. The playwrights not only get to watch the professional actors and directors at work, but they are also active participants in the process, offering insights and concerns and making changes. By the time the play is ready to present to an audience, the playwrights have already experienced a workshop development process usually reserved for professional playwrights.
Cold Reading Marathon
While the featured plays are being rehearsed, participants attend the Cold Reading Marathon. In the afternoon, the finalist scripts from each of the participating schools are read by a cast of off-duty professional actors. These readings are followed by a group feedback session. The Cold Reading Marathon amounts to an open classroom on playwriting.
Professional actors and playwrights from the area may perform monologues, short plays, and/or one-act plays of their own for the students’ enjoyment during the morning session. Afterwards, the actors answer questions and talk with the students about the joys and pitfalls of writing your own play and performing it.