by David Stallings · June 18, 2014
The community of artists at Manhattan Theatre Works (which adds up to about fifty actors, writers, directors, and designers) looks forward every year to the Newborn Festival, which is currently in its fourth year of residence at The City College New York. The Newborn Festival is a reading series that began in our first season and continues to supply us with the plays we produce. If you haven’t heard of MTWorks, we are a company aimed towards nurturing and producing new works in NYC that thematically focus on diversity (ethnic, economic, geographic, gender, sexuality and creed). To find these plays, we encourage playwrights from across the country and around the globe to submit their pieces. Out of over five hundred plays every year, we choose five for public readings.
What inspires Co-Artistic Director Antonio Minino and I the most is when we encounter voices that we have never heard before. I remember three years ago when first reading Riti Sachdeva’s poetic piece, Parts of Parts and Stitches, about a small town torn apart by the partition of Pakistan and India, how thoroughly enraptured I was by a struggle I knew little about yet could connect to on a basic human level. As we moved forward with the piece, held talkbacks with leaders from the South Asian community with our audiences, we took every conversation and heated argument inspired (there were a few) as a major win for the play and the company. Producing this play was bliss as for us theater is about learning. Anyone can mindlessly watch hours of nonsense on a television screen or be awed by circus performance, but the tradition of theater for thousands of years has been to use art to elevate human understanding. In an age, where we have to beg people to turn off electronic devices before every performance, we find that staying true to this tradition is one of the greatest challenges ahead for our generation of theater artists.
From the 2014 Newborn, you will recognize the names of playwrights we have worked with in the past, like Carol Carpenter, Riti Sachdeva and Duncan Pflaster, but you will also meet new voices to the MTWorks stage, such as this year’s MTWorks’ Board of Directors Excellence in Playwriting Award recipient Fengar Gael and Tennessee playwright Judy Klass. As the winner of MTWorks’ Board of Directors Excellence in Playwriting Award, Fengar Gael’s The Draper’s Eye has been published here on Indie Theater Now. We thank Martin Denton for involving Indie Theater Now for the first time as a sponsor of the award. Antonio and I are dedicated to producing two of these five plays.