What Else Is New?

What Else Is New?

0609 AN WU T2 New Play Festival

Courtesy Photo

Pulitzer Prize finalist Lisa D’Amour is one of six playwrights workshopping their plays at the 2017 T2 Arkansas New Play Festival.


Playwrights are king at T2 festival

Now in its ninth year of production, TheatreSquared’s New Play Festival has reached a level of national recognition that T2 artistic director Robert Ford had only dreamed of in the beginning. The festival lineup of five plays includes Pulitzer Prize finalist Lisa D’Amour and prominent Lebanese-American playwright Mona Mansour, as well as a workshop production of University of Arkansas’ playwriting program head John Walch’s “Transatlantic.”

“Because of the support we receive, the enthusiasm locally for hatching new plays and the support we’re receiving from foundations and individuals, we are able to attract some pretty prominent playwrights,” says Ford. “Our playwrights this year are very much out there on the national scene. This is what we set out to do years ago, and we’re kind of pinching ourselves — it’s really happening. We have a nationally recognized new play festival that is drawing the best playwrights in the country and supporting our regional artists and playwrights.”

The festival receives funding from the Fayetteville Area Community Foundation’s Happy Hollow Fund, a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts and a gift from Barbara B. Shadden in memory of Harry S. Shadden.

Producing a festival of this magnitude is no easy feat, says Morgan Hicks, T2 co-founder and festival co-producer and company manager. The full company for the festival numbers 65, with 18 people coming from out of town.

“It takes a bit of wrangling,” Hicks says. “We have five shows in rehearsal and only three rehearsal spaces, so that makes it a little tricky too.” As company manager, Hicks’ responsibilities are numerous. “Helping with casting and staffing, and then organizing the schedule and all of the logistics — booking all of the flights, finding housing, trips to the airport, all of that incredibly glamorous stuff.”

When the playwrights, directors, stage managers, dramaturgs and actors gathered on Tuesday to begin the workshops that will help shape the plays, they were starting a two-week process that is completely playwright-centered, says Ford.

“As a playwright, you are totally able to focus on your work,” he says. “There are over 50 people involved who are all working on your show and all supporting you. You’re the star. It’s your chance to be the center of the process and feel that support, because all we want is for you to be able to play — we built this big sandbox for you to be able to play.”

— Lara Hightower



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