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Ever Seen A “NewBorn” Play? (Part 1)

by Antonio Miniño on January 13, 2010

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Developed 3 years ago, The National NewBorn Festival is the flagship program of a non-profit theater company very dear to me, Maieutic Theatre Works; or as we like to call it MTWorks – that way we don’t have to get into the whole “Maieutic is pronounced /meɪˈjuːtɪks/”.

New plays that have yet to receive a New York production are read in a festival setting and free to the general public from Thursday, January 21st through Sunday, January 24th. This year we are showcasing new plays by Barrie Kreinik, Jacqueline Goldfinger, Carol Carpenter, Gwydion Suilebhan and Cody Daigle.

The audience also gets to pick and vote for the recipient of the Audience Favorite Award. The winner receives a second reading on Sunday night after the resident reading of A Song for St. Michael’s by one of the NewBorn creators and Artistic Director of MTWorks, David Stallings.

What I appreciate about festivals is the networking opportunities it creates for dramatists, actors, directors and companies.  This week I asked all 6 dramatists some questions about their work and inspirations.

AM-How did you hear about NewBorn?

(Barrie Kreinik – A Thousand Shapes) I’m an MTWorks company actor and my first performance with the company was in NewBorn 2008, so I’ve already had some experience with the Festival.

(Jacqueline Goldfinger – Slip/Shot) I read about the NewBorn online two years ago, and submitted my play The Oath. MTWorks liked The Oath so much that they produced it in 2009! It was an incredible experience! Slip/Shot is my first new play since The Oath and the fab MTWorks company offered to include it in the NewBorn Festival.

(Carol Carpenter – Good Lonely People) I read about artistic director David Stallings’ work in an article or blurb online. When I realized we were graduates of the same college, I decided to reach out to him.

(Gwydion Suilebhan – Faithkiller) I’m almost too embarrassed to admit this… but I found it on Facebook.

(Cody Daigle – A Home Across The Ocean) MTWorks produced my play Providence in 2008, and the experience was fantastic. When I finished the new show, I sent it to them, eager for a chance to work with them again.

AM-Describe your play in one sentence:

(Barrie Kreinik – A Thousand Shapes) Three women at an American university face the consequences of crossing boundaries and discover the shape-shifting nature of love.

(Jacqueline Goldfinger – Slip/Shot) It’s about people trying to make sense of a situation that simply makes no sense and, in doing so, create “truths” that may or may not be very truthful.

(Carol Carpenter – Good Lonely People) Election night 2008 transforms a family in a small conservative town.

(Gwydion Suilebhan – Faithkiller) The exploits of an atheist superhero in a 1940s New York radio studio, a run-down apartment in present-day Los Angeles, and a not-too-distant theocratic future: what do the stories we tell reveal about the things we believe?

(Cody Daigle – A Home Across The Ocean) A 13-year old foster child and a poet from London help a family and a gay couple face loss and redefine itself.

(David Stallings – A Song For St. Michael’s) A young boy is taught how to grieve within the cold rules of his structured community.

AM-What makes your work stand out from the rest?

(Barrie Kreinik – A Thousand Shapes) The play’s subject matter twists familiar tropes.  The issue of teacher-student relationships has been addressed in other plays, but what happens when the teacher and student are both female?  It’s about relationships and feelings that defy labels, where everything happens under the surface, where the characters are afraid to address what’s really going on — where they aren’t sure what’s really going on.  There’s a lot of language, a lot of quoting other people, but also a lot of unspoken communication.  I don’t know if this makes it stand out from everything else per se, but these are some characteristics of the piece.

(Jacqueline Goldfinger – Slip/Shot) My plays have been described as “Southern gothic” so I think that makes my work different from the others.

(Carol Carpenter – Good Lonely People) My work is grounded in the people and places of the American Southwest. There, I explore the tension between oppositional ideologies and cultures: between progress and tradition, urban and rural, professional and working class, religious and secular. My journey as a writer is to find beauty and value in those I judge, to uncover paradox and hypocrisies within myself through the insights of characters I would deplore in real life, and to harmonize conflict through humor and reconciliation.

(Gwydion Suilebhan – Faithkiller) My work is very post-modern: multi-racial and multi-generational casts, interwoven narratives and meta-narratives, and a variety of media juxtaposed for a Twitter generation of theatergoers.

(Cody Daigle – A Home Across The Ocean) Ah, the dreaded “sell-yourself” moment. I think my work stands out because it’s quiet, simple, but the emotions are big. I’m very interested in the poetry of who we are in private, with the people we’re closest to, and I think that comes through in the work.

(David Stallings – A Song for St. Michael’s) It is the second piece in a trilogy about a town in Texas and the dysfunctional traditions passed down through generations based in stubbornness and ignorance.  Those who have seen the development of Barrier Island will enjoy seeing a different and equally entertaining part of the community.

AM-Whose work do you admire – who inspires you?

(Barrie Kreinik – A Thousand Shapes) Caryl Churchill, Tom Stoppard, Diana Son, Joanna Murray-Smith, Timberlake Wertenbaker, Wendy Wasserstein… to name a few.  This play in particular was influenced by the works of Virginia Woolf.  And I’m also inspired by Shakespeare — his incredibly rich language and raw emotionality.  His use of language.  I’m fascinated by language.

(Jacqueline Goldfinger – Slip/Shot) I’m a huge fan of early 20th Century Southern literature – Kate Chopin, William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Katherine Anne Porter, and Carson McCullers come to mind.

(Carol Carpenter – Good Lonely People) Sam Shepard, Horton Foote, Leila Buck.

(Gwydion Suilebhan – Faithkiller) I’m inspired by playwrights who look beyond their own lives for inspiration… who use their plays to ask broad, penetrating questions about being human in the modern world.  David Hare, August Wilson, and Sarah Kane come to mind — diverse stylistically, but all of them big.

(Cody Daigle – A Home Across The Ocean) Tony Kushner, because of his incredible gift with language. Christopher Shinn, Sarah Ruhl, Melissa James Gibson, Paula Vogel, Terrence McNally.

(David Stallings -  A Home Across The Ocean) Shakespeare’s.  His universality and specificity are a paradox that few have been able to reinvent.

AM-What do you hope the audience will walk away with after this reading?

(Barrie Kreinik – A Thousand Shapes) I hope they walk away in deep discussion with each other!  I’d love to inspire conversation, dialogue, examination.  They might wonder about the ambiguity of relationships, about our need to name things, to label them.  Hopefully they’ll wonder about what the characters do after the play ends.  Whatever happens, I hope they’re thinking.

(Jacqueline Goldfinger – Slip/Shot) I hope that the audience will laugh a lot, cry a little, and walk away thinking a little bit about how they tell their own stories and create their own personal “truths.”

(Carol Carpenter – Good Lonely People) Respect for uneducated, uncultured, underprivileged working class white folks.

(Gwydion Suilebhan – Faithkiller) A glimpse, perhaps, of a way to get out of the ideological complexity and deep emotion underlying the religious culture clashes that have paralyzed American life for at least a century… and (I would be remiss in not adding) a very strong desire to buy a ticket to a full production of the play.

(Cody Daigle – A Home Across The Ocean) I hope they walk away feeling as though they watched something that felt deeply true, something funny, something moving, something real.

(David Stallings – A Song for St. Michael’s) My favorite reaction from an audience is a gasp!

AM-What other projects do you have lined up in 2010?

(Barrie Kreinik – A Thousand Shapes) I’m still in the process of lining up specific projects, but I’ve got ongoing work as a voice-over artist, singer, and dialect coach, and I’m working on a couple of new play ideas.  I put on a lot of hats!

(Jacqueline Goldfinger – Slip/Shot) So far, I have a world premiere of my commissioned adaptation of Little Women in San Diego and a production of my dark comedy the terrible girls in Philadelphia. My short play, His Last Fight, will also be published in the anthology “Best Ten-Minute Plays of 2010″ by Smith and Kraus.

(Carol Carpenter – Good Lonely People) Good Lonely People is in the final running for the High Desert Play Development Series at Southwest Repertory Theatre. I am currently conducting research for a new book whose near-impossible goal is to convince working class conservatives that their economic interests are not being served by their party.

(Gwydion Suilebhan – Faithkiller) My play The Constellation will be running in DC this winter, and I’ll be workshopping a new play called Reals this spring… more importantly, though, I’ll be having my first child — which is the greatest project I can imagine!

(Cody Daigle – A Home Across The Ocean) I’m working on two new plays – a play about architecture, real estate and theater (seriously!) called The Lasting and a relationship comedy called Cuddleman.

(David Stallings – A Song for St. Michael’s) Barrier Island with MTWorks opening April 30th and A Daughter of Israel with BOO-Arts in the fall.

* * *

The 2010 National NewBorn Festival takes place at The Asya Geisberg Studio (526 West 26th Street, No 1017. Between 10th and 11th Ave). The admission is free but you do need to reserve your seats as the space is limited. For a complete schedule and reservation information visit

Next week we will bring you an interview with the directors involved in the festival, including our very own contributor Diánna Martin.  I leave you with a short conversation with one of the many writers that have inspired the dramatists participating in NewBorn, Tony Kushner.

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