Finding New Voices
Photograph Kirsten Shultz
Given a well-publicized and beautiful venue, financial and logistical support, and free rein, exactly what would a group of aspiring teenaged playwrights say to their hometown? And who would be so brave as to provide the ways and means, and then get out of the way?
Last fall, a call for writing submissions went out to every middle school and high school in Blaine County from Company of Fools (COF). Seven young playwrights were selected to participate in the lengthy process of developing and producing their works on stage, under the tutelage of COF members and New York City playwright and storyteller, Clay McLeaod Chapman. Denise Simone, core Company artist, and Joel Vilinsky, company member, led the writing process over a four-month period before turning their protégés over to Chapman for a weeklong residency program.
In April, directors and actors joined the writers for rehearsals before New Voices for the Theatre opened to the public at the Liberty Theatre in Hailey. The production showcased the latest works of Amberle Behr, Kayla Cloud, Haley Johnson, Chloe Jory, Max Kessler, Kimberly Martin, and Russell Wilson.
“The program was a rousing success on so many levels,” says Simone. “The theme the writers chose was ‘metamorphosis,’ and their transformation will continue long after this project.”
“Having Clay Chapman come in was the best part of the program. It helped me step back and examine my work with a fresh eye,” says playwright Russell Wilson. And, indeed, Chapman brought heady experience to bear. His short fiction works have been transposed to the stage for the last ten years, in venues such as Romania, Scotland, Ireland, and the United States. Chapman is also the author of two books.
“Having such a wide range of writers was great,” agrees Haley Johnson. “I’m glad that this wasn’t limited to a certain grade level. Working with more experienced and older writers made me work all the harder.”
For information on participating in 2006, visit www.companyoffools.org.