Perry-Mansfield’s New Works Festival incorporates new program |

Perry-Mansfield’s New Works Festival incorporates new program

Sam Finger gets into character along with fellow students Jane Colon-Bonet
John F. Russell

— Emily Tarquin saw her first new play process and met her first living playwright 13 years ago.

“I grew up in a small town in upstate New York and was never really exposed to something like that,” said Tarquin, executive producer for the New Works Festival, who first witnessed this process as an intern at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School & Camp. “I found inspiration and a career through seeing that work being done that I wouldn’t have found otherwise.”

This experience was the impetus to her generating support and fostering Perry-Mansfield’s newest program — the New Works Festival Retreat — for the pre-professional students.

A group of five students were selected to participate in the New Works Festival, which blends a study of classical and contemporary techniques with prestigious actors, directors and playwrights.

The new program gives students the opportunity to interact with and observe the process of developing a new play professionally and exposes them to the tools needed to be successful. These tools include how to work with a playwright, what they can bring to the process and how to be open and willing to new developments.

“All of us probably at some point started in the artistic business because somebody mentored you or gave you advice and helped you with that,” said Andrew Leynse, artistic director of Primary Stages, NYC. “That’s part of how we train our future artists is to let them in and be part of that loop.”

Throughout the festival, four prestigious theater companies from across the country — Atlantic Theater Company, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts Theatre Company, Primary Stages and South Coast Repertory — select fresh material and give those playwrights an escape to Perry-Mansfield for a week of reading, reworking and rewriting four plays with professional actors and directors.

The first piece to kickoff the weekend of the New Works Festival, now in its 18th year, will be James Still’s “I Love to Eat,” which will begin at 4 p.m. Friday at the Chief Theater. Sandra Tsing Loh’s “Madwoman in the Volvo” will be the featured piece at 8 p.m. Friday.

At 4 p.m. Saturday, Clare Barron’s “Dance Nation” will be performed on the Main Studio of the Perry Mansfield campus. Then, at 8 p.m. in the same studio, Boo Killebrew’s “Miller, Mississippi” will be featured.

Having the mix of generations of students and seasoned professionals in one room opens the theater experience to new opportunities.

“They really have a chance to contribute a lot in terms of this play because it will have a certain rhythm of partly storytelling and partly sprightly little scenes,” said Loh, whose piece was inspired by her memoir of the same title “Madwoman in the Volvo,” released a year ago. “I do think it’s partly about learning the intelligence of a script and really understand the bones of playwriting.”

While the students are soaking in as much as they can by watching and working with these professionals, the playwrights will also find new revelations within their pieces throughout the process.

Killebrew has seen her piece, “Miller, Mississippi,” evolve within just a few days due to the collaboration, openness and willingness to take risks the environment encourages.

“In New York, there is a lot of pressure,” said Killebrew, who is in Steamboat for the first time with Perry-Mansfield’s New Works Festival. “You are not writing from a place that is fearless, because there is fear, (and) you can’t really write when there is fear. But here, when you are writing for the piece and not necessarily for the next phase of success, then it becomes the piece it’s supposed to be.”

There will also be an opening dinner at Harwigs L’Apogee beginning at 8 p.m. Friday. Single tickets for each staged reading are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Special Festival Passes range from $50 to $100 and include various readings and the opening dinner. For more information visit visit, call (970) 879-7125 or email

18th Annual Perry-Mansfield New Works Festival Schedule

Denver Center for the Performing Arts Theatre Company presents: “I love to Eat” by James Still

When: 4 p.m. Friday, June 12, Chief Theater

Directed by Jessica Kubzansky

Dramaturgy by Douglas Langworthy

Featuring: Rob Nagle

South Coast Repertory presents: “Madwoman in the Volvo” by Sandra Tsing Loh

When: 8 p.m. Friday, June 12 at the Chief Theater

Directed by Bart DeLorenzo

Dramaturgy by Jerry Patch

Featuring: Shannon Holt, Caroline Aaron

Atlantic Theater Company presents “Dance Nation” by Clare Barron

When: 4 p.m. Saturday, June 13 at the Perry-Mansfield campus, Main Studio

Directed by Margot Bordelon

Featuring: Danny Wolohan, Mary Bacon, Molly Bernard, and Perry-Mansfield Pre-Professional Students

Primary Stages presents “Miller, Mississippi” by Boo Killebrew

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, June 13 at the Perry-Mansfield campus, Main Studio

Directed by Michelle Bossy

Featuring: Mary Bacon, Scout James, Victoria Pollack, Steven Robertson, and Heather Alacia Simms

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1

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