Behind the scenes at Orlando Shakespeare Theater

A Festival of World Premieres!

Have you ever sat down at a show at a professional theater and wondered about the script? There are a million plays out there –  how does a playwright’s work get on the artistic director’s radar? Did the play always have this dialogue or did it change over time?

Well, the truth is, most plays go through many stages of development before they ever get produced on a large scale. Playwrights create draft after draft before the script sees any light of day. Then staged readings, workshops, and more revisions occur. It’s a long process, but an exciting one.

There’s something quite magical about catching a production in its early stages and then following its course afterwards. A few years ago, I saw the world premiere of the musical Wonderland by Frank Wildhorn at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts (formally the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center). Afterwards, it had a short engagement in Houston and then it finally hit the Great White Way after a long hiatus of rewrites to the music and story. Even though many of its original elements from the Tampa run were doctored or eliminated, I am definitely proud to say “I saw it when…”

And PlayFest at Orlando Shakes is where you can see things first. Through a competitive selection process, 7 new plays have been chosen to participate at the festival. Patrons get a rare chance to witness the beginning stages of these works through staged readings.

And not only were the play submissions put through the ringer, but so were the actors auditioning for the roles. We had such an overwhelming response to our audition notice for PlayFest, we had an extra day of auditions to accommodate the interested folks. Some of the best actors from Orlando and the surrounding areas will help bring these pieces to life.

Over the course of 4 days, there are world-premiere readings, networking parties, playwright panels, and master classes. AND at every PlayFest we have a keynote speaker. Previous speakers have included Olympia Dukakis, Theresa Rebeck, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. This year we welcome Jon Jory, whose adaptation of Sense and Sensibility will be presented here in repertory with Othello in the early spring. Learn from a pro AND catch a reading of his brand new play, Tom Jones, which is one of the 7 readings.

You may be thinking, “Do these plays go onto other places after the festival?” And the answer is an overwhelming, “YES!” Many of these new pieces have received productions in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Washington D.C. Did you know that The Exit Interview (currently playing at Shakes as part of the Studio Series) debuted at PlayFest in 2011? Shortly after its debut, it was selected by the National New Play Network to have rolling openings all around the country beginning in Orlando and San Diego.

Ticket prices for the readings are ONLY $5 a pop. And if you want to see all 7 readings, you can get a festival pass for a steal at $28 (that averages to 4 measly dollars).

PlayFest runs November 2-4. Click here for more information or contact the box office at 407-447-1700.

I know where I’ll be that weekend (hopefully selling you some PlayFest tickets).

Love and Shakespeare,
A’riel T.
Marketing Intern, Orlando Shakespeare Theater

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