The National Newborn Festival has become, over the last four years, one of the premiere playwriting festivals in the country for emerging playwrights. A flagship program created and produced by MTWorks, an ever-growing, non-profit theatre company, Newborn allows playwrights to have a work never produced in New York be read in a festival setting.
Free and open to the public, this year’s festival is being sponsored by The City College of New York’s Psychology Club & Department and begins Thursday, February 3rd, and runs through Sunday, February 6th. This year we are showcasing the works of Duncan Pflaster, Rich Rubin, Marilynn Barner Anselmi, Riti Sachdeva, and Jacqueline Goldfinger.
The festival will kick off the first night with the reading of The ReEducation of Arizona by MTWorks’ Artistic Director and resident playwright David Stallings, and end the final evening with the Audience Favorite Award ceremony and a raffle, as well as an extra reading of the winning play. For 2011, in addition to the Audience Favorite Award which is selected by those who attend the readings, the MTWorks Board of Directors is presenting the first annual Excellence in Playwriting Award, to be announced prior to the festival.
I have directed a reading in the last two Newborn Festivals, and will be acting in this year’s, so I’m very excited about this brainchild that MTWorks has created…one that encourages playwrights, directors, and actors to come together and celebrate the artistic process. I asked the playwrights to talk a little bit about their work and their thoughts on said process.
How did you come to hear about The Newborn Festival?
(Duncan Pflaster – The Empress of Sex) I’ve been a fan of MTWorks for some time now, and when I saw they were accepting applications for the festival, I jumped to send in my script.
(Rich Rubin – Costa Rehab) Spotted the posting on the nyc playwrights website, probably around this time last year.
(Marilynn Barner Anselmi – Raising Ricci) The NewBorn Festival and MTWorks was one of many companies I discovered during my desperate internet searches for possible artistic avenues.
(Riti Sachdeva – Parts of Parts & Stitches) A call in the Fund for Women Artists e-newsletter.
(Jacqueline Goldfinger – Skin & Bone) My play, “Slip/Shot,” was in the Festival last year, and it was a fantastic experience. MTWorks also produced my drama, “The Oath,” in 2009.
Describe your play in one sentence.
(Duncan Pflaster – The Empress of Sex) A woman spurned in her affairs of the heart sets herself up as empress of an island where no love is allowed, only sex; all is orgies and sensual pleasure till her ex-lover comes in disguise to try to win her back.
(Rich Rubin – Costa Rehab) A very raunchy comedy with an underpinning of great sadness.
(Marilynn Barner Anselmi – Raising Ricci) After the death of their son, two women attempt to find healing and acceptance in the home of their Southern family.
(Riti Sachdeva – Parts of Parts & Stitches) In war, it is a fine line between madness and courage.
(Jacqueline Goldfinger – Skin & Bone) Skin & Bone is a dark comedy about two little old ladies who detest aging because they can’t do the things they love anymore – like eating people.
(David Stallings – The ReEducation of Arizona) The ReEducation of Arizona opens a discussion about the trickle down effect of politicians and media upon the smaller families in our country.
What makes your work, this play in particular, stand out from the rest?
(Duncan Pflaster – The Empress of Sex) It’s a romantic comedy in the tradition of Marivaux and Shakespeare that doesn’t shy away from modern expressions of sexuality.
(Rich Rubin – Costa Rehab) I’m not sure that is does. I’m hoping that audiences will find Costa Rehab irreverent and off-kilter and at times even outrageous, but I suspect that description applies to just about everything in the festival.
(Marilynn Barner Anselmi – Raising Ricci) Maybe my willingness to portray raw grief as honestly as I’m capable.
(Riti Sachdeva – Parts of Parts & Stitches) The woman-centerdness of the tone, the action, the impetus. The emotional urgency of compassion and determination.
(Jacqueline Goldfinger – Skin & Bone) I think Skin & Bone is the only comedy in the Festival this year, and the only one that utilizes the more traditional elements of Southern Gothic storytelling (a la William Faulkner, Kate Chopin, etc…).
(David Stallings – The ReEducation of Arizona) As I am the only writer that has read all of the plays (lucky me), I believe that each play uniquely shows the aesthetic of MTWorks! I think with this play, the recent events in Arizona have made it more timely now than when it was written.
Whose work do you admire and find to be an inspiration to you as a writer?
(Duncan Pflaster – The Empress of Sex) Charles Ludlam is the top (especially for this play); his combining traditional theatrical forms with comedy and sexuality has always been an inspiration. Also love Israel Horovitz, Christopher Durang, Theresa Rebeck, Eric Overmyer, Paul Rudnick, Tony Kushner, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Tom Robbins…. and more and more…
(Rich Rubin – Costa Rehab) The list goes on and on, and includes August Wilson, Martin McDonagh, Lee Blessing and Annie Baker. I’m also a big fan of Theresa Rebeck, Lynn Nottage, Tracy Letts and Rebecca Gilman. It might be easier to ask me to list the playwrights whose work I don’t admire.
(Marilynn Barner Anselmi – Raising Ricci) Douglas Wright, Marsha Norman, Margaret Edson and, certainly, Harper Lee.
(Riti Sachdeva – Parts of Parts & Stitches) So many – Audre Lorde, Nilo Cruz, Malcom X, Deepa Mehtha, Natacha Atlas, Mother Nature.
(Jacqueline Goldfinger – Skin & Bone) Recently, I’ve been inspired by the work of Martin McDonagh, Enda Walsh, and Leo Butler.
(David Stallings – The ReEducation of Arizona) I always go back to Shakespeare and Shaw when I am lost.
What do you hope the audience will walk away with after this reading?
(Duncan Pflaster – The Empress of Sex) I hope they have a good time. I hope my words touch their hearts and their erogenous zones.
(Rich Rubin – Costa Rehab) A few laughs … and at least a subliminal sense of the tragic absurdity of war.
(Marilynn Barner Anselmi – Raising Ricci) At least a glimpse at a real life, shared experience, and the germination of healing.
(Riti Sachdeva – Parts of Parts & Stitches) To think about how each one of us has an opportunity and responsibility to stand up for the “other”.
(Jacqueline Goldfinger – Skin & Bone) I hope they’ll walk away having laughed a lot, and it might provoke some thought about what it means to age in America’s youth culture.
(David Stallings – The ReEducation of Arizona) I always hope that the piece was entertaining first. And then my goal is to open a discussion. It is easy to say that because we are New Yorkers, the nonsense going on in Arizona with their offensive Immigration bill and laughable paroling of minority studies in schools does not affect us. But it does. And these measures are persecuting Americans who are most vulnerable. In this play, I give facts that seem ridiculous and fiction that, while comic, has a darker undertone.
What other projects do you have lined up for 2011?
(Duncan Pflaster – The Empress of Sex) I’ll be doing my experimental play Six Silences in Three Movements in March as part of Manhattan Rep’s 2011 WinterFest; most likely doing something in the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity this Summer (though not confirmed yet); and I’ve just been commissioned to write my first screenplay, so that’s a new adventure.
(Rich Rubin – Costa Rehab) Assisted Living, a pretty mainstream comedy-drama about a family dealing with Alzheimer’s disease, will have a second production (in Oregon) this spring. I recently finished a full-length about the disintegration of Arthur Miller’s marriage to Marilyn Monroe on the set of The Misfits, and I’m currently working on another full-length about a primatologist with a complicated love-life.
(Marilynn Barner Anselmi – Raising Ricci) More mad attempts to get my work out there (wherever that is).
(Riti Sachdeva – Parts of Parts & Stitches) My MFA thesis show La Fea: A FlamenChoreoMyth, bringing together two of my great passions: theatre and flamenco. Produced by University of New Mexico, directed by Ricky Martinez of New Theatre, Miami.
(Jacqueline Goldfinger – Skin & Bone) My dark comedy, the terrible girls, is world premiering at Azuka Theatre Company in Philadelphia and being published by Playscripts this spring. You can read more about my work online: www.jacquelinegoldfinger.com
(David Stallings – The ReEducation of Arizona) I have The Family Shakespeare here in NYC with MTWorks in April. So I am excited for that!
The 2011 National Newborn Festival will be held at The City College of New York, North Academic Center (NAC), 138th St at Amsterdam Avenue. 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 www.MTWorks.org.
Next week we’ll have a chance to talk to the directors of these readings to find out what their thoughts are on the plays that have been selected for the festival. In the meantime . . . I think the following video will also whet your appetite.