Category Archives: Alumni News

My Atlanta Fringe Festival Experience

Charis Wiltshire, Travis Draper, and Wala Hassan perform in the opening of Ember

The 2016 Atlanta Fringe Festival returned June 9 – 12 in various venues in and around Atlanta’s Inman Park neighborhood. During this year’s festival, a group of Theater at Emory students and alums (members of Corpulent Porpoise Productions) mounted Ember, a new play by playwriting major Max McCreary. Below, members of the production recount their experience taking part in Atlanta’s annual festival of edgy, new work.

The 2016 Atlanta Fringe Festival was my first Fringe festival as a performer.  Working with a group of students all studying at Theater Emory, we enjoyed an easy rehearsal chemistry, since we all spoke the same language and knew the same shorthand.  This certainly streamlined our brief rehearsal process, since we only met about eight times.  Going into the piece, none of us knew much about Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) nor could we ask our playwright for frequent clarifications on the script, as he was occupied elsewhere.  Therefore, with Adam Friedman at the helm, we were given liberty to explore our own blocking and pacing, to determine dramatically how symptoms of DID might manifest.  I believe a major take-away from our production, certainly something to enrich the playwright’s future drafts, was our discovery of how ineffectual immobility can be in a drama of language.  After weeks of deliberation, our director made the call to mobilize the alternate identities, opening up a fruitful discussion about cognitive movement as well as providing a wealth of acting opportunities.  Rehearsal and development was both satisfying and very entertaining, but the major draw of Fringe Festival for the artists has to be the unlimited, free access to all other fringe shows during the festival.  While I hope our work will help the playwright better his play and provide the director with future insights, I gathered my pearls out in the audience. – Travis Draper, Class of 2015


The Atlanta Fringe Festival was a wonderful opportunity in a community venue that provided a great atmosphere for the performances. Our rehearsal process was concentrated on realizing the script written by our student author; giving him a reading with staging to further his work. Because of this, we communicated closely with Max McCreary about what experiments in rehearsal would be the most helpful as he continued to develop this work. Though our venue lacked AC, our performances were smooth to run with good audiences as well. Fringe is certainly a piece of work, but the commitment to make something unique, new, and worthwhile makes the festival a really fun workspace. – Ginny Loeffler, Class of 2017


Working on the Atlanta Fringe Festival was an experience I’ll always be grateful for. I had a stellar time with my ensemble trying to put on a fellow student’s play. We started with just regular rehearsals and as the date got closer we began to do previews with the festival. These were great because I got to see some of what the other companies were working on and I got to meet a lot of cool talented people. I even ran into an old friend of mine! We got artist passes so I was able to see some of the other shows which were all really good. It was a really great professional experience that I think all students should do and can do with ease and I would highly recommend and do again! – Wala Hassan, Class of 2017


Being able to participate in the Atlanta Fringe Festival was a really cool experience. Before Fringe I never tapped into the vast extent of artistic opportunities happening in Atlanta and the festival really helped open my eyes to that.  It was awesome being welcomed into a community of artists who are encouraging, supportive, and love what they’re doing. We got to see a few of the extremely talented performers for free, which was awesome and much appreciated. Also, being able to work with such good friends throughout the whole process, from playwright to director to actors, really made the experience as dope as it could possibly be. – Charis Wiltshire, Class of 2018


This year has been one of firsts for me, and it is only fitting that my first year at Emory is punctuated with my experience at Atlanta Fringe. My imagination, for a long time, has been excited by scenes of people blocking freshly-written scripts in plainclothes, in rehearsal halls long after the sun has set, creating, with force and determination, artful theater, bringing it, so to speak, from thin air. Theater-making, in my mind, is synonymous with tension and release, roughness and vigor and vitality, and these words come to mind as I reflect on the experience I had helping bring Ember to the Fringe stage. I feel immensely honored to have been trusted with Ember, and I’m thankful to have been brought into the project. My familiarity with my cast mates, the director, and the writer brought a palpable chemistry to the project. I trusted all of them, and that was ultimately empowering. To work with a script that was energetically new and unvarnished in places, finding the inspirations and forces my friend had written, and watching my cast mates extract it all before my eyes was a compelling thing to behold.

The festival itself was a whole other experience, an exhilarating one. The works I watched ranged from rowdy and comedic to deeply written drama, and they all impressed me by their sense of inspiration, each piece had something ingeniously unique about it that imbued the festival with an air of electric novelty. Watching fresh and new pieces, knowing I was with a company and cast that had new work of their own to offer, brought to life an experience I had only been able to imagine. It drove home an idea that art doesn’t just happen in a vacuum, that we find ourselves as a community of theatre-makers, not insular productions. Everything about the experience was real and untethered, and deeply unforgettable. – Josh Oberlander, Class of 2019


The Atlanta Fringe Festival was my first experience directing a professional production, which brought a whole load of lessons with it.  The process was much more streamlined than a production, and rehearsals were a bit sparser, as we were working around everyone’s working schedule.  However, this was balanced out by the fact that we were all used to working with each other from previous productions and classes.  Another lesson learned was how much can be left open and up to interpretation when developing new work.  This is both good and bad, as it provides unique opportunities to shape an audience’s interpretation of the work, while also posing unique challenges as how to best portray the writer’s intents.

The festival itself was an incredible experience.  From kickoff to closing, it was filled with an infectious energy from performers and organizers alike.  The festival’s organizers did an excellent job of providing the artists with opportunities to promote their work through a night of previews, as well as individualized previews throughout the weekend.  In addition, all of the artists were put together in a room, giving us the chance to connect with each other and learn about all the shows that were going on.  I think that may have ultimately been what was the most valuable part of the experience – meeting and connecting with so many exciting artists in the Atlanta area.  – Adam Friedman, Class of 2018



Brave New Works through the Eyes of an Alum

Eliana Marianes, a 2010 Theater Studies graduate, returns to campus this winter as a professional actor in the Brave New Works 2016 company. In this blog post, Eliana shares her thoughts on the collaborative experience of acting in a new play workshop.

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Eliana Marianes at work and at play in the rehearsal room

As an alum, it’s always a treat to be back at Emory for any reason, but Brave New Works is special. From my actor’s perspective, the greatest thing about Brave New Works is having the playwright in the room with us (a rarity in the world of professional theater!). Nothing beats getting new pages after a flurry of writing the playwright did during a break, or getting insight into the emphasis or meaning of a line I’m struggling with, or sometimes even seeing the playwright rewrite a line because of a delightful stumble I made or the emphasis or meaning I found in the text. But best of all, the actors get to watch the playwright’s face light up as they hear their words come to life. We watch the playwright draw strength from the laughs their characters get in the rehearsal hall, and we feel the satisfaction emanating from the playwright in waves when we “get it right,” when we make their imaginary character real in just the right way. And best of all, we can see the playwrights as they twitch with movement or a facial expression or behavioral tick (some are twitchier than others)—more often than not, that little involuntary twitch acts as inspiration for the actors and makes it into the reading. If that isn’t collaboration, I don’t know what is.

The French playwright Valère Novarina once said, “The actor and the spectator exchange

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Eliana and fellow alum, Travis Draper, in rehearsal for the Bonobo Project.

breath in the theater.” As an actor, I’ve felt this exchange between actor and spectator countless times—the way their laughter acts as a springboard for my next moment of hilarity, or the way my tears seem to flow out of my body directly into their lungs as they gasp and clutch the hand of the person next to them. In the rehearsal room of Brave New Works, however, it is the playwright and the actor who exchange breath—that mysterious, elusive, and all-knowing playwright is no longer a ghostly specter haunting the rehearsal process, deaf to our unanswered questions (“Why on earth did the playwright write an exclamation mark instead of a question mark?” “What happens in this long pause?” “How in the hell does my character start the play here and end the play THERE?”). Rather, the playwright enters the rehearsal hall to engage with the actors, to share with us their omniscient perspective, to answer our never-ending questions, and to PLAY with us. At last.

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Travis Draper, Eliana Marianes, and Kristyl Tift in the presentation of Johnny Drago’s “Cul-de-Sac.”

And although the audience only sees the ‘finished product,’ as it were, on the night of the reading, I think that a part of them is aware of the fun exchanges and play of the rehearsal hall. And so, if you’ve ever wondered what makes the plays you see presented in Brave New Works special, it is just that… play.

~Eliana Marianes

Alumni News: Scott Turner Schofield on ‘The Bold and the Beautiful’

turner 2Theater at Emory alum and “renowned diversity speaker, author and performer” Scott Turner Schofield will make his TV acting debut on the Emmy Award-winning daytime series “The Bold and the Beautiful,” the New York Daily News has just announced. Schofield, a transgender actor, will first appear May 8 as Nick, a mentor to fashion model Maya Avant, who’s “in the center of a cliffhanger-inducing storm revolving around her gender identity.”

Says Schofield, “(The show is) going in the direction that transgender people can be happy about. And not only transgender people, but everyone who knows and loves a transgender person.”

Read the New York Daily News’ full article here.

ArtsATL: Playwright Snehal Desai brings Indian perspective to Emory’s Global Voices

snehal(crop)Playwright Snehal Desai chuckles when recalling his mother’s first response upon learning her son had been accepted to Yale’s graduate school for theatre studies. “You can still take some classes at the law school, right?”

Growing up in Quakertown, Pennsylvania, Desai was no different from millions of other first-generation Americans whose parents are inclined to remind their kids, “We came here to give you the kinds of opportunities we never had back home.” Repeatedly.

But the irony of the immigrant dream of unlimited opportunity, says Desai, is that it tends to cover a very limited spectrum — including doctor, lawyer, engineer or businessperson — none of which was appealing to him.

Live performance, on the other hand, had his name written all over it.

Read the full article here.

Alumni news: Jake Krakovsky in Courageous Inquiry 1.0


Engaging Students

At Emory, learning doesn’t stay in the classroom. From volunteering to farming, creating to leading, Emory students are expanding their lessons in unexpected places.

Before Jake Krakovsky even graduated from college, he had one of those rare openings where years of work culminated in one special moment. It came as the play he wrote about the Holocaust premiered at Emory, while his grandfather, a Holocaust survivor, watched him perform.

Read the whole story from Emory’s Office of the Provost here

Alumni News: American Theatre interview with Lauren Gunderson

Southern Hospitality

An interview with I and You playwright Lauren Gunderson
By Margaret EdsonlaurenG

The current print edition of American Theatre features the complete script of Lauren Gunderson’s new play I and You, as well as an edited version of this interview

When Lauren Gunderson was 16, she wrote Margaret Edson a fan letter on the occasion of Edson’s Pulitzer Prize win for Wit. The two, both Atlanta natives, have been friends ever since, and Edson encouraged Gunderson to become a writer. Edson and Gunderson spoke by phone in early May.

Read the full interview here.