The annual Yale Playwrights Festival will feature five student-written plays this Friday and Saturday.
Founded in 2003 by theater studies professor Toni Dorfman and Laura Jacqmin ’04, the Yale Playwrights Festival organizes staged readings of original student work every year. According to Dorfman, the festival’s format has remained similar, but the number of entries increases every year. This year, the festival received 53 entries, and a panel of a dozen professional playwrights and directors selected five plays to be performed.
Each playwright is assigned two mentors, selected by theater faculty, who advise the playwrights on their language and structure. The playwrights suggest directors and work with those directors to cast the readings.
This year, the festival will feature works by Joyce Maynard ’22, Naomi Goodheart ’22, Carrie Mannino ’20, Mikaela Boone ’21, Mia Fowler ’20 and Seth Herschkowitz ’20.
On Friday, Maynard’s “The Skeleton Museum” will show at 3 p.m. Goodheart’s “In Absentia” will follow at 5:30 p.m. On Saturday, Mannino’s “It Couldn’t Happen Here” will show at 2 p.m., followed by Fowler and Herschkowitz’s “Terminal 3.” The final performance will be Boones’s “Birthright” at 7 p.m.
Each play is allowed four hours of rehearsal, which must take place the week prior to the festival. According to Dorfman, this is to ensure that playwrights have as much time as possible to revise their scripts between the announcement of the final scripts and the date of their performance.
“Four hours of rehearsal — Yale actors don’t need more with scripts in hand,” Dorfman said. “They leap into the heart of the play, they connect with one another, they go for it. And the point is, these are just readings — no props, costumes, music. The play’s the thing.”
Lily Weisberg ’21, who will direct Maynard’s “The Skeleton Museum,” said preparing for the festival has been a collaborative process. The play is about a woman who loses her house and hair salon during the California wildfires. Throughout the course of the play, the woman tries to figure out what is still left in her life, Weisberg explained.
Weisberg said the festival allows the team to focus on the acting and character development. During rehearsal, she said she emphasizes the importance of accessing a character’s interior.
“It’s really the script that’s being put on display more than anything else,” Mannino said.
Mannino, a former WKND editor, wrote her play “It Couldn’t Happen Here” as her senior thesis in the English major’s creative writing concentration.
“It Couldn’t Happen Here” is a documentary play, centered around the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Oct. 27, 2018. The congregation, located in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, was attacked during its Shabbat morning services. The shooter killed 11 people and wounded six. It was the deadliest attack on a Jewish community in United States history.
Mannino is a member of the congregation and grew up in the Squirrel Hill community. The play is based on about 30 interviews Mannino conducted with members of the community in the summer of 2019. It also draws on news articles and press releases from the time of the shooting.
“It’s very easy to forget about these acts of violence when they’re not directly affecting you, and it’s important to remember the personal aspects of these national tragedies,” Mannino said.
Mannino said she endeavored to show perspectives that get lost in the media coverage of mass shootings. She wanted to show that these attacks are lasting tragedies for the communities they impact and highlight the resilience of her community members. She also wanted to call attention to rising white supremacist rhetoric and the violence that it causes.
Mannino said she is looking forward to a giving voice to her community and to hear her work performed in front of an audience.
“In my experience with playwriting, you can write it and read it over a million times, but until you hear it outloud and watch an audience watch it, you can’t really know how effective it is,” Mannino said.
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Carrie Zhou | firstname.lastname@example.org