Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Theatre Kalamazoo! New Playfest

        The 3rd annual Theatre Kalamazoo New Play Festival was a diverse showcase of local playwrights and a celebration of the communities' lively theater scene. Featured were first time playwrights such as Darrell Kellog, alongside most established pieces by Jason Lentz and Bonnie Jo Campbell.

        The festival commenced on Jan 25th with a pair of one acts, followed by a series of 10 minute plays on Saturday afternoon, and concluding that night with another 10 minute play and two more one acts.

        Held in the Epic Center in downtown Kalamazoo, the black box theatre was packed from wall to wall with people. Sometimes theatre is criticized for being pretentious or elitist, and sometimes it is, but the TKNP couldn't have felt more organic. Instead of feeling like a production, it felt like being a part of a giant writing workshop.

       In an effort to encourage the contributing artists to make changes to their plays, the actors read from scripts that were, in some cases, printed out within hours of being read. No lines to memorize, not much in the way of costumes, and the set design was a whisker above minimalist. The lack of production value gave a folksy atmosphere that was a much appreciated break from the whole suit and tie affair that so often encompasses a night of theatre.

        Following each performance the audience was encouraged to stay for a half hour talkback with the playwrights, mediated by Ed Menta, theatre professor at Kalamazoo College, and Steve Feffer of WMU. The talkbacks were used as an opportunity for the writers to learn what worked and what was less effective in their plays. Some interesting opinions were aired, but Menta and Feffer kept things going smoothly.

        With an admission fee of zero dollars, you get exactly what you pay for. Or rather, you don't lose anything. Why not go downtown, eat a nice dinner, drink a few glasses of good wine, and spend a few hours watching some plays. The TKNP is the perfect excuse to have a good time, and it would be hard not to.

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