New Visions, New Voices

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Kathleen Bennett, second from right, gathers with her cast and director, Sara Rodemberger, far right, to field questions about her play Reflections. Photo credit: Jeremiah Jensen

The Meadows School of the Arts’ theater department put on its 20th annual New Visions, New Voices Festival over the past two weekends, March 20-22 and March 27-29.

The festival features the work of budding SMU playwrights, nine of them this year, and offers the young writers an opportunity to garner feedback from SMU audiences before they release their plays to the general public.

“I feel so naked; it’s a different kind of vulnerability,” said playwright Kathleen Bennett.

All nine of the playwrights have been working on their pieces since at least August of last year. As of five years ago, the festival became a compilation of every playwriting student’s play, performed as a stage reading. Before that only three students’ pieces were shown, and they were shown as a full play.

Stage reading is a common theater practice, something of a first viewing. There is very little production, and the actors read their lines straight from a script. This puts emphasis on the writing, though that is not to say that the manner in which the actors deliver their lines has nothing to do with a successful stage reading.

After the readings ended, the cast, playwright, and director would hold a feedback session where the audience could ask questions and offer up their thoughts about the play.

Bennett’s play Reflections debuted in the spotlight on March 28. The play dealt with the nature of secrets and appearances, and it provoked much thought from her audience. The feedback on her play was very positive. Ryan Mclaughlin, an SMU theater major, responding to a plot twist said, “I like the way it ended because it complicated my feelings toward the main character.”

Be on the lookout for these plays. They are in the final stages of writing and should be ready to be sent out to theaters around Dallas in the near future.

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