Words And Music: Playwrights Festival shows off NWA talent

Words And Music: Playwrights Festival shows off NWA talent

“The Smokehouse Players love local and this event is about as local as you can get.”

That’s how Terry Vaughan begins a conversation about the first-ever Northwest Arkansas Playwrights Festival, set for June 14-19 at the company’s home, the Ozark Mountain Smokehouse in west Fayetteville.

“We have a company of 21 actors and directors working on 14 scripts by great local playwrights, with local musicians providing 45 minutes of pre-show music before each performance,” Vaughan goes on. “And it’s all free! I think a lot of folks in the community don’t realize the depth of talent that can be found in their own back yards. So, my goal is to get people to come to the Smokehouse and enjoy!”

The event brings together Smokehouse Players, founded by Vaughan and her husband, Tim Gilster, in 2017, a few years after the couple moved to Fayetteville from New York City, and the Arkansas Playwrights Workshop, which dates back to 2012.

“Tim and I started reading plays at Arkansas Playwrights Workshop in 2012,” Vaughan remembers. “We have listened to and read the words of the playwrights we are honoring in this play festival for 10 years. We respect all of them so much that we wanted to properly celebrate them, along with APW, which supports their efforts so powerfully. That is why we created this festival and why we reached out to APW to co-present with us.”

The mission of Smokehouse Players is to “provide free bare-bones theater to the Northwest Arkansas community while raising awareness and funds for Magdalene Serenity House,” explains Vaughan, referring to the nonprofit that “helps rebuild the lives of women who have experienced trauma, sexual exploitation, addiction and incarceration through safe housing, long-term support and community partnerships.” While all Northwest Arkansas Playwrights Festival performances are free, all donations will go directly to Magdalene Serenity House.

“And, we have a matching donor for the play festival,” Vaughan adds. “We helped raise $10,000 for MSH at our ‘Love Letters’ benefit performance in April so we hoping folks will donate at this event, as well.”

“It’s important to say that we don’t want anyone to not attend because they think their donation may be too small,” says Mark Beasley, one of the APW leaders. “Anything helps. One dollar helps. And if you can’t afford one dollar, I would say this — please come anyway and support the playwright with your interest.”

The chance to see a play “on its feet,” even as a staged reading, is invaluable to playwrights, he adds.

“A playwright can be intimately familiar with the dialogue and characters of a script, but once it comes up off the page into three dimensions, spoken by real people, having voice, sound and action, it can change entirely,” he explains. “It presents new opportunities and new challenges.”

“I hope the festival encourages writers of all levels to write, or those who might not consider themselves writers to write,” says Mark Landon Smith, APW leader and successful playwright himself, with 18 scripts published including three foreign translations, a film adaptation an Off-Broadway production and an Distinguished Play nomination from the American Alliance for Theatre and Education. “We all have stories to tell, and APW provides resources to help writers tell their stories.”

“I think it is also important to say that the generosity of the actors, directors and musicians who are participating in the Northwest Arkansas Playwrights Festival has touched me deeply,” concludes Vaughan. “All of them have donated their time and talent to celebrate these playwrights and raise money for MSH. How lucky can we get?”



NWA Playwrights Festival

WHEN — June 14-19

WHERE — Ozark Mountain Smokehouse, 1725 S. Smokehouse Trail in Fayetteville

COST — Free; donations benefit Magdalene Serenity House

INFO — smokehouseplayers@gmail.com

FYI — No reserved seating. Doors open one hour before curtain. Beer, wine and chips available for sale prior to the show.



NWA Playwrights Festival


June 14

6:45-7:30 p.m. — Pre-show music by Still on the Hill

7:30 p.m. — “Armadillo Man” by Jules Taylor

June 15

6:45-7:30 p.m. — Pre-show music by Dandelion Heart

7:30 p.m. — “Sunshine No. 11” & “The Speed of Light in Memphis” by Garland Standrod

June 16

6:45-7:30 p.m. — Pre-show music by Jori Costello

7:30 p.m. — “Brickman’s Comet” by Hana Mironoff

June 17

6:45-7:30 p.m. — Pre-show music by Mark Summerlin

7:30 p.m. — “Prisoner of Walls” by Nathan V. McKinney

June 18

1:15-2 p.m. — Pre-show music by John Joseph Ray

2 p.m. — An Afternoon of Short Plays

6:15-7:30 p.m. — Pre-show music by Rob Button

7:30 p.m. — “The Sin Eater” by Dan Borengasser

June 19

2:15-3 p.m. — Pre-show music by The CD Players

3 p.m. — “Little Rock 1957” by Brynda Pappas

Categories: Theater