‘Cow Play’ headed to theater festival

“Cow Play,” a show written by Matthew George ’11 that wowed full houses at the Whitney Humanities Center last fall, will soon be back on the stage.

George’s play, as directed by Charlie Polinger ’13, has been selected to be performed at a regional theater festival at Fitchburg State College in Massachusetts as part of the Kennedy Center’s American College Theater Festival. The show, which George wrote after working on a dairy farm this summer, revolves around the relationships between a young aspiring actress and two brothers. The show is one of five productions selected for the festival from a pool of an estimated 180 plays, George said.

George is also nominated for a National Student Playwriting Award.
George is also nominated for a National Student Playwriting Award.

The KCACTF is a national, year-round program aimed at supporting and celebrating college theater and providing development opportunities for students, especially young playwrights such as George. There are eight participating regions around the country that will host a total of 57 productions. “Cow Play” is one of five plays that will be staged at the festival for Region 1, which includes institutions in New England and eastern New York. From these 57 productions, a panel of three judges, along with Gregg Henry, the artistic director of the festival, will select three shows for the national festival in April at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

“We’re looking for, pound for pound, the strongest work in tandem of actors, designers, directors, stage managers,” Henry said. “We’re looking for the strongest productions as a whole.”

The KCACTF offers support to young playwrights through several different awards and fellowships. In addition to having his play selected for the regional festival, George is one of five nominees for the National Student Playwrighting Award — an award which includes an all-expenses-paid production of the playwright’s show at the Kennedy Center as well as a $2,500 cash prize.

Beyond the opportunities and exposure that the festival offers, the cast and crew of “Cow Play” said they were just excited to have a chance to do their show again.

“We’ve all had a lot of fun creating these characters and really crafting them and now we get to do it again for a whole new group of people,” George said.

Willa Fitzgerald ’13, who plays one of the show’s three characters, said she enjoyed the opportunity to originate a role in a new play and appreciated how much George trusted the directors and actors to develop their characters and relationships independent of him.

“Matthew was like a cheat sheet, but we never got to look at that cheat sheet,” said Fitzgerald. “He is such a great playwright that most of the questions we had we could probably figure out if we just sat with the script for long enough.”

George registered “Cow Play” for the KCACTF over the summer, admittedly without knowing much about the program. During the application process, he failed to notice the $3,500 registration fee that each participating school has to pay in order to qualify student works. But because “Cow Play” was chosen as one of the plays that will perform at the festival, Henry said the $3,500 fee was waived to help reduce the financial burden of transferring the show. He added that the show will receive an additional $800 grant to help cover the production costs.

Polinger, the director, said that the cast and crew plan to drive a U-Haul up to Fitchburg the night before the performance. The show will have seven hours to load into the space and rehearse before a 3 p.m. performance.

Polinger said that he is excited to get to see what other participating schools will bring to the table.

“It’s just exciting to see what other colleges are doing and to show other colleges what we’re doing,” Polinger said. “There’s a lot of knowledge of what theater’s like in the Yale community, but I’m excited to share that with other colleges.”

Apart from participating in the KCACTF, Polinger said that plans are in the works to bring “Cow Play” to the New York International Fringe Festival this summer.

“We just can’t put ‘Cow Play’down yet. It’s such a challenging play that we feel like we could just keep working on it forever,” Polinger added.

This is the first time in recent memory that Yale has participated in the KCACTF, Henry said, and he added that he hopes it will not be the last.

“We’ll do anything we can to encourage the continuation of the relationship [with Yale] because we care a great deal for new voices,” Henry said. “We know certainly that the training is outstanding at Yale and new writing coming from that program is going to be very beneficial and very exciting for other young writers.”

Over its more than 40-year history, the KCACTF has brought an approximated 10,000 productions to more than 16 million theatergoers nationwide.

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