Uplifting New Works of Theatre with the Next Stage Workshops
Go behind the curtain and into the writing process of the new plays by BU graduate and undergraduate students that were workshopped as part of CFA’s annual Fringe Festival
As part of the 27th annual Fringe Festival and Boston University School of Theatre’s fall 2023 semester, undergraduate and graduate students produced the Next Stage Workshops, wherein new works are uplifted, celebrated, and workshopped.
As the (unofficial) next step in the School of Theatre’s (SOT) undergraduate new work processes – after the bi-annual Springboard Festival – the Next Stage Workshops (NSW) have offered playwrights the opportunity to see their pieces on their feet for the first time. Usually consisting of an assigned or chosen production team of a director, dramaturg, actors, and designing consultants for limited sound and lighting design, NSW focuses on how the words of the play, along with limited staging, stage directions read aloud, and scripts in hand, impacts an audience.
According to playwright and Associate Professor Kirsten Greenidge, Playwriting program director, chair of Theatre Arts, co-chair of Performance, and facilitator of NSW, the goal of the workshops is multifaceted. The workshops are playwright-centered, in that they’re “designed for playwrights to work on their plays, but it is also for writers to work with directors on developing text, and for a company of artists to collaborate with each other on a play that is not yet fully realized.”
The workshops are designed for playwrights to work on their plays, but it is also for writers to work with directors on developing text, and for a company of artists to collaborate with each other on a play that is not yet fully realized.
With this year being the first time BU MFA Playwriting students participate in NSW, it has more than doubled the amount of new works presented compared to previous years. Throughout the four weeks of the festival, graduate playwrights presented their works in the David Copeland Black Box Theatre and undergraduate playwrights presented in BU’s Joan and Edgar Booth Theatre.
Week 1 of the NSW (September 22 – 24) consisted of graduate playwright Maggie Kearnan’s (CAS’25) Like Flies: A Rage Play and undergraduate Theatre Arts major Edward Sturm’s (CFA’24) Priscilla.
Week 2 (September 29 – October 1) presented DOWN NECK by graduate playwright Tina Esper (CAS’25) and Cars, Candy, and Other Colorful Things by undergraduate Theatre Arts major Gaby Tovar (CFA’25).
Week 3 (October 6 – 8) rounded out the undergraduate presentations with Theatre Arts major JoJo Leaito’s Delinquents Never Stay Long and continued the MFA playwrights presentations with Isabelle Sanatdar Stevens’ broke (not broken), lost n found.
The final weekend (October 13 – 14) brought Brandon Zang’s Ginkgo Express.
There is no expected ‘product’ of the new works presented in NSW. From fully memorized and staged performances to simply entering and exiting the stage, Greenidge expects that, within each respective two week rehearsal process, the companies use their “time to learn about the play and have discussions that will further the play’s development.” With this, she believes that students “go so deep into process that ‘product’ is seconding.”
Undergraduate and graduate students alike heartily took that challenge to heart for the 2023 NSW. MFA Playwriting candidate Maggie Kearnan says that her play, DOWN NECK, is “in its earliest stages of development,” especially considering how much of an experimental play it is for her. Maggie found that the safe, creative space NSW offered as well as the enthusiasm from her director, MFA Directing candidate Gregg Wiggans, and their cast about the development process really helped her to play with the storytelling challenges her source material, a short story by Brazilian novelist Clarice Lispector, created.
Jojo Leaito, undergraduate Theatre Arts major and playwright of Delinquents Never Stay for Long, has had a similar experience with the process, noting “how much dedication and hard work the New Works cast put in to each presentation and how much care and excitement is shared for each process.”
Jojo and many of the other presenting playwrights reflect on how refreshed, inspired, and joyful they are and have become from their own NSW processes as well as observing their fellow playwrights’ processes.