As hundreds of undergraduates gathered at Commons on Friday evening for Freshmen Screw, eager playwrights were anxiously kicking off the start of the 2017 Yale Playwrights Festival just a few blocks away.
Each year, the Dramat hosts the Yale Playwrights Festival to showcase completed undergraduate works that have been selected by a panel of faculty judges. On Friday and Saturday, seven student plays made their debuts in the Davenport/Pierson theatre.
“I think playwrights deserve more of a platform at Yale, especially young playwrights who don’t know where to begin or don’t know what support systems exist for them since there are so few resources,” said Stefani Kuo ’17, who had a play in the festival. “New work is so important because it is one of the most important ways we get to see, hear and discover new and important narratives, coming from people and students amongst us.”
According to festival organizer Alcindor Leadon ’17, around 40 plays were submitted to this year’s festival, out of which the seven winners were chosen.
Each play was read and followed by a discussion panel moderated by the playwrights’ mentors, most of whom were professors and graduate students. Some of the plays included “Girlish” which was written by Alexa Derman ’19, “Flush” by Rachel Calnek-Sugin ’19 and “Stone Fish” by Edward Columbia ’18.
Calnek-Sugin said that while traditionally, the event had only four plays — two for each evening — this is the second year that the festival has produced seven in its roughly 20-year history. The increase reflects the high quality of work submitted, she said. The festival could not feasibly accommodate more than seven plays within the two-day time frame, Calnek-Sugin said.
Low turnouts for this year’s plays were similar to the previous year’s outcomes, much to the dismay of the playwrights. Leadon said that having an earlier time slot for shows was undesirable, given that fewer people would likely show up in the mornings.
He added that hosting the festival on Friday night this year caused it to conflict with many of the weekend’s events, like Freshmen Screw.
“My whole cast were freshmen so as soon as they were done, they had to rush off to get ready for Screw,” Leadon said. “It would be better if we could dedicate a whole week next year and do a play a night.”
Leadon, an Applied Mathematics major, said that while he loves doing theater as an extracurricular, he chose not to major in it. He said that his background in math will provide more financial stability in the future, and the requirements for the majors are too different to pursue both.
Similarly, Calnek-Sugin, who is double majoring in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, said it is hard to maintain a steady source of income as a playwright.
The playwrights agreed that Friday’s festival is one of the many resources at Yale that allow aspiring writers to network with one another.
All of those interviewed said they would enjoy being apart of the Yale Playwright festival again, and Leadon saw that one of his goals would be to come back and act as a mentor for future playwrights at Yale.
The event was hosted by the Yale Dramatic Organization.