Boston, MA – This weekend, when the prestigious American College Theatre Festival is presented at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C, a contingent of faculty and students from the Boston University School of Theatre will turn out to celebrate playwright Jenny Rachel Weiner, whose play diventare was selected as the recipient of the National Student Playwriting Award from the annual festival.
Started in 1969, The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) serves as a catalyst to develop and produce a showcase of the finest and most diverse work being produced on college and university stages, in a theatre program involving 18,000 students from 600 colleges and universities across the United States. Regional festivals showcase the finest of each of eight geographic regions’ entered productions, adjudicated by a panel of three judges selected by The Kennedy Center and the KCACTF national committee. These judges, in consultation with the Artistic Director, then select four to six of the best and most diverse regional festival productions to be showcased in the spring at the annual noncompetitive national festival at The Kennedy Center.
Selected as one of just three plays to be presented at the national festival, diventare emerged from a field of 53 individual plays and musicals being considered for the national festival; those 53 plays and musicals were culled from a total of 526 productions that were considered nationwide for an invitation to the regional festivals.
“Diventare,” Italian for “to become,” tells the story of Linda, a young woman grieving the loss of her child who has died in a hurricane. Retreating to an underwater fantasy world, Linda first seeks to escape her grief. Then, when a hurricane once again approaches, she must choose to retreat further or face her fears and become a survivor. A personal story born out of Ms. Weiner’s grandmother’s loss of a child, the play’s narrative centers on the notion that traumas in families tend to pass from one generation to another until someone confronts and works through them. For information about The Kennedy Center performance of diventare, visit www.kennedy-center.org/education.
Ms. Weiner, a 2009 graduate of the Boston University School of Theatre, wrote and developed diventare under the auspices of the BU New Play Initiative, in a process that began in fall 2008 with a series of readings, followed by two productions, and a fully-mounted production at The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival regional festival in New Hampshire in January 2010. In March 2010, diventare was produced in New York City as part of Boston University’s InCite Arts Festival. Throughout the play’s evolution, Ms. Weiner has worked closely with its director Ellie Heyman, an MFA directing candidate in BU’s School of Theatre, to develop the work.
“KCACTF has provided a rich opportunity for repeated offering of productions throughout the academic year,” says Jim Petosa, Director of BU’s School of Theatre. “We have strategized to build upon this opportunity to provide significant growth and development opportunities for new student-written plays. This BU New Play Initiative has become a rich part of our culture as student playwrights are joined by student directors, actors, design teams and technicians to do significant work on the development of new plays. We are proud and pleased by the recognition afforded our ensemble by the Kennedy Center and the American College Theatre Festival.”
The BU New Play Initiative (NPI), established in 2003, provides playwrights and directors with a variety of developmental options to support the creation of new work for the theatre. In addition to diventare, NPI has developed eight plays, including Translations of Xhosa by Kira Lallas (CFA’02), a KCACTF honoree and a 2004 nominee for the prestigious Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play; Sow and Weep by Nitzan Halperin (CFA’08), which took third prize in the KCACTF David Mark Cohen playwriting competition; Lizzie Stranton by Lydia Diamond, BU School of Theatre assistant professor and author of critically-acclaimed plays Voyeurs de Venus, Stick Fly, and The Bluest Eye; and Brendan by former Huntington Playwriting Fellow and BU alumnus Ronan Noone, winner of the 2007 Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE) award for Best New Play.
The School of Theatre in the Boston University College of Fine Arts was established in 1954 as one of the country’s leading institutions for the study of acting, directing, design, production, management and all aspects of the theatrical profession. In recent years, the School of Theatre has evolved into an energetic place that values the notion of ‘the new conservatory,’ which fosters the artistic benefits of collaboration, a rigorous and intellectually demanding curriculum, a nurturing and supportive community of artists, and strong, meaningful interaction with the profession. Current professional programs include the New Play Initiative (NPI); the Boston Center for American Performance (BCAP), the School’s professional production extension; and the BU Professional Theatre Initiative (PTI), which provides strong interaction with many professional theatres highlighted by its longstanding relationship with the Huntington Theatre Company, Boston’s premiere regional theatre in residence at BU.
The Boston University College of Fine Arts was created in 1954 to bring together the School of Music, the School of Theatre, and the School of Visual Arts. Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized private research university with more than 30,000 students participating in undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs. BU consists of 17 colleges and schools along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes which are central to the school’s research and teaching mission
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