By Stephanie Gogul and Amy Wells
The School of Theater's annual Seabury Quinn Jr. Playwrights' Festival features a four days of outstanding student work, including two full productions of student-written plays.
Held each year at the end of May, the festival presents a year's worth of work by graduate playwright majors. First-year graduate students present their work in rehearsed seated readings, while second- and third-year students present their work in the form of rehearsed script-in-hand readings or full studio productions. This year's full studio productions are Dana Lynn Formby's "Small of Her Back" and Reginald Edmund's "Southbridge."
"I'm looking forward to seeing my play finally having a life to it before an audience," Edmund said. "It's something incredible that happens when 10 entirely different plays are placed in front of an audience. The festival ultimately aids the playwright by allowing those words that we've worked so hard on come to life and finally speak, but also it gives us a chance to help new and old audience members be familiar with who we are."
Public readings and workshop productions are a vital step in the development of new work for the stage, explained Erik Ramsey, assistant professor of playwriting.
"At a certain point, after a playwright has developed a full rough draft, he or she needs to hear how an audience responds to the play so the playwright can rewrite to hone the work toward a final draft that is ready for production," Ramsey said. "There is no better teacher than a live audience to show where a play is working and where it is not."
Playwrights receive audience feedback in addition to individual professional response and mentoring from a panel of guest artists. Many festival plays go on to receive professional productions in New York, Chicago and around the country.
This year's guest artists include playwright Lydia Dymond, playwright John Walch, playwright and TV writer Jacquelyn Reingold, and playwright Larry Carr.
The guest artists, all nationally known in the theater world, interact with students throughout the festival week. They formally respond to each new play immediately following the reading or performance and visit classrooms to talk about their areas of expertise. They're also happy to offer the playwrights their wisdom in a one-on-one setting.
See "Small of Her Back" and "Southbridge" Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Forum Theater in the RTV Building. Tickets are available at the Kantner Hall box office. "Small of Her Back" is directed by MFA student Bryce Britton and "Southbridge" is directed by MFA student Vanessa Mercado Taylor.
The festival has been held annually since the 1990s. Its namesake, who died last November, was a former Ohio University faculty member who returned each year for the festival and who is remembered for the passion he brought to guiding young writers. As part of this year's festival, the School of Theater has planned a tribute to Quinn featuring a collection of his works and remembrances at 2 p.m. Friday at the Forum Theater.
Information about guest artists and a schedule of events can be found at www.ohioplaywriting.org/festival.html.