Category Archives: Brave New Works

Looking Back on Brave New Works

Kate Howard (18C) shares her thoughts on her experience serving as the Communications Assistant for Brave New Works 2016

This semester I was fortunate enough to complete my Theater Practicum class a bit differently than what my peers might consider the typical route for the course, and I am so grateful that I did. Theater Practicum (otherwise known as THEA 200R) is a required course for all Theater Studies majors and minors.

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It was fascinating to witness collaboration in the rehearsal room.

According to the class description students are to “undertake a substantial technical theater responsibility in a Theater Emory production”.  My substantial responsibility was to serve as the Communications Assistant for this year’s Brave New Works program under the guidance and instruction of my two wonderful mentors, Emma Yarborough, the Programming Coordinator/ Company Manager of Theater Emory , and Lisa Paulsen, the Director of the Playwriting Center of Theater Emory! As the Communications Assistant, my responsibilities included photographing and sitting in on the rehearsals and performances of many of the Brave New Works, hospitality set-up and support for visiting artists, working towards updating the Playwriting Center/Brave New Works representation on the website, and documenting workshops and readings through blog posts among various other small projects. Through these responsibilities I gained new experiences learning  how to work a DSLR camera to take pictures in rehearsal, navigating the back end of a website to add content, as well as  understanding what goes into setting up an event so that it will run smoothly( from making sure everyone has a place to park there car to ordering and setting up the food for the after celebration).

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This was by far my favorite photograph. It was wonderful to observe Shannon Eubanks direct!

In addition to the work that took place outside of the rehearsal room, I especially enjoyed all the time I spent inside the rehearsal and performance spaces. It was fascinating to see the collaboration between the directors, playwrights, and actors as the rehearsals got off the ground and everyone got really absorbed and involved in the process. I watched one director get everyone up on their feet and worked through the script using a lot of movement.

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This is my good friend Zana at King James Rehearsal.

Another director was excited to talk through with the cast about their characters and used a lot of verbal idea processing to navigate the new work. As I went into another rehearsal, I watched a playwright add music to her piece and give it to the actors to listen to and use as they took on their characters. Hearing the questions that all of the artists asked, watching them think through the material, adding new lines to the script, or simply watching the piece progress as the cast worked through the new work was an experience I will never forget.Seeing my friends, my teachers, and professionals whom I have collaborated with in the past or brand new faces work together was a true joy and I am extremely proud to have so many wonderful role models! Though I may not have taken the typical Theater Practicum route, I would not change it one bit.

Always,

Kate Howard

 

Thoughts from Max McCreary, Assistant Director of “The Younger”

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Cast and crew of The Younger

During the past week I was fortunate enough to get to watch the true transformation of a play. I observed the metamorphosis of Anne Hugh’s play The Younger, in its world premier staged reading. Serving as assistant to director Jeremy Cohen gave me the opportunity to sit behind the table, instead of the music stand, as he and dramaturg Edith Freni helped to further trim and shape the play in development. Although my duties were not always called upon, I was allowed to act as an observer on the whole process and that provides a plethora of learning opportunities on its own. For any aspiring theater artist, watching other, established artists is key to developing your own vision as an artist. Even if I did not always agree with a decision that was made by Jeremy, or by an actor, it was still significant that I was able to see the process of making that decision, to analyze why I would or would not have done the same thing, and to hear how such a choice might come to fruition.

However, I believe that the most astonishing and miraculous thing about this show and the process of bringing it to the Schwartz Theater Lab was the incredible amount of work that Anne achieved over the course of four days. Anne came into the rehearsals with an open mind and impressed us all with her poise. She truly demonstrated grace under pressure as she mercilessly “killed her darlings” and pared a 112-page script down to 85. New text came floating in and out of binders right up until the opening of the house, which signified Anne’s next step on her journey of highly refined storytelling.

The way that we tell stories and the reasons that we are telling them are amazingly important to the creation of a new piece of theater. Jeremy and Edith went all in to provide a truly unique opportunity for Anne to listen, watch, and create… and in my opinion that’s what developing new work is all about.

~Max McCreary

Acting for a work-in-progress: Tom Zhang

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The cast of Here to Love You Uncomfortable

Developed during Brave New Works 2016, Here to Love You Uncomfortable is a stage adaptation of Please, Jericho Brown’s American Book Award-winning collection of poetry that explores the intersections of love and violence, African American male identity and sexuality. 

In this blog post, Tom Zhang shares his experience serving as an actor in this developmental workshop.

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Tom at work in rehearsal.

Working on Here to Love You Uncomfortable was… intense. The script underwent major rewrites several times as the director and the poet worked to dramatize the poetry. In the end the poems became more like monologues and soliloquies, and so we had to perform them as such, sometimes fighting urges to read them according to the organization of lines rather than the organization of punctuation. Watching the adaptation in progress was honestly fun, because we got to see the writer and director negotiate each other’s roles in the rehearsal process and creation process. Personally, I learned how adapting poetry can be done by finding the themes of the poems and creating a narrative based off of the through-lines.

~Tom Zhang

Q&A with Ann Hughes, playwright

Ann Hughes’ (17C) play, The Younger, was the 2016 Brave New Works Fellow’s Project. Created by inaugural Emory University Playwriting Fellow, Edith Freni, The Fellow’s Project identifies and mentors a promising Emory student playwright who has completed the first draft of a full-length play, culminating in a staged reading during Brave New Works.

We sat down with Ann to discuss her Brave New Works experience working with a professional cast, director Jeremy Cohen, and Edith on the newest draft of her play.

Scroll down to see what she had to say!

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Director Jeremy Cohen, playwright Ann Hughes, and dramaturg Edith Freni in conversation following the presentation of The Younger.
Q: How has the experience been having your play workshopped? 
A: It was amazing! I was so lucky to have such an awesome director, Jeremy B. Cohen, and my mentor Edith Freni helping me through the process. My cast was excellent, and everyone was so supportive. It was a lot of hard work, but I enjoyed every minute of it. 
 
Q: What have you learned throughout the process?
A: I’ve learned that in most cases less is definitely more. You don’t need to tell your audience who the characters are all the time – the actors will do that.  
 
Q: What inspired you to write The Younger?
A: I learned about Seneca’s relationship with Emperor Nero in a history of theater class, and thought it would be interesting if Seneca was actually Nero’s father. After doing some research I found out about Agrippina and thought she was fascinating. 
 
Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced?
A: Some of the cuts were hard to make, not because I felt like I was taking out anything the play needed but because I got attached to a specific line or moment. 
 
Q: What was most exciting about the process?
A: Realizing how much better my play can be. It’s easy to get lost and not know how to fix things and all of the great feedback is what will allow me to keep working on it. 
 

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

Georgia Writers Showcased in 2016 Brave New Works Festival

January 20, 2016

ATLANTA—The Playwriting Center of Theater Emory announces the 2016 Brave New Works festival, taking place January 25 through February 13 in the Theater Lab of the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts. The biennial festival brings professional playwrights, adaptors, composers, and directors together with student and professional actors to produce new work at Emory.

This year’s festival shines a spotlight on the wealth of artists producing exciting and challenging work right here in Georgia. “In 2016, we are proud to feature world-class writers who have put down roots in Atlanta,” said Lisa Paulsen, director of the Playwriting Center. “The scripts they are preparing for Brave New Works are as flavorful and fresh as Atlanta itself.”

Read the press release in full hereBNW16_Emailer.