Professors Steve Feffer and Mark Liermann
Tuesdays and Thursdays 9 AM – 11:50 AM (Class) and 7 PM – 10PM (Rehearsals and Shows)
Now in its tenth summer, the Western Michigan University New Play Project has developed and presented over one hundred and twenty plays to audiences in the York Arena Theatre. Over the seven and a half weeks of Summer 1, approximately fifteen short plays are given a development rehearsal process with a company of actors and directors from the Theatre Department, culminating in a public script-in-hand stage reading. The course is team taught by Steve Feffer, English Department and Mark Liermann, Theatre Department. Plays from the New Play Project have gone on to numerous publications, productions and prizes.
In celebration of the tenth anniversary of the New Play Project, the course this summer will have a number of unique features and emphases, while maintaining its fundamental core concentration on developing new plays by WMU students with WMU actors and directors for public performance.
1) First, Professors Feffer and Liermann have received a grant to produce one of Steve's plays (directed by Mark) in Chicago and Kalamazoo this summer, and the rehearsal and development of this play will be part of the project. In addition to the development of their own work, playwrights will serve as production dramaturgs on the play (while learning what production dramaturgy involves), and actors from the project will be the company performing the play in Kalamazoo and Chicago. The play, entitled "Whatever Happened to Gloomy Gus of the Chicago Bears," adapted from the novella by Robert Coover, is set among the Chicago labor movement of the 1930s and is told in the style of the Living Newspaper performances contemporary to that era.
2) Second, as Steve's play is done in the style of an American political and social theatre from the 1930s (the living newspaper), there will be an emphasis in the Project of exploring the many forms that political theatre has taken over its history, focusing especially in the modern and contemporary era, including living newspapers. Thus, our classroom work will explore in an active manner, issues raised by what constitutes a political and social theatre (in its broadest sense) by reading deeply in American and world drama, as well as engaging in playwriting and theatre exercises to explore and develop the student playwrights’ own work in this area.
3) Third, in keeping with the New Play Project's dedication to the development of new work, student playwrights will write, develop and stage, during the course of the summer, new plays that focus on political or social issues (again, in their broadest sense). Unlike the nine previous New Play Projects where interested students submitted their plays in advance, this summer the plays will be developed from start to finish during the course of the project (imitating, in some ways, political theatre companies such as Caryl Churchill's work with Joint Stock or Monstrous Regiment). In this way, we hope playwrights may involve the actors and directors even in earlier in their developmental process.
Enrollment in the class is by instructor permission, and interested playwrights should contact ASAP Steve Feffer at .