Primer: Your guide to the 2015 Colorado New Play Summit

by John Moore | Jan 16, 2015
Colorado New Play Summit by the Numbers


'Appoggiatura' Playwright James Still and Director Risa Brainin at the 2014 Colorado New Play Summit. Photo by John Moore. The Colorado New Play Summit is turning 10 next month, and it’s growing fast. The DCPA Theatre Company’s signature event is expanding to two weekends, and adding workshops and other interactive programming. So, even for the thousands who have attended the Summit over the past 10 years, next month's event will be very different. And for no one will it be more different than our four featured playwrights, who will have twice as much time to workshop their developing material with our directors, actors and creative staff. Here’s a Summit primer with all you need to know: 


When is the 2015 Colorado New Play Summit?
Over the weekends of Feb. 14-15 and Feb. 20-21.

OK, so what exactly is the Colorado New Play Summit?

The featured attraction of the Summit will be professional readings of four promising, carefully chosen new plays that will then be considered for inclusion in next year’s full DCPA Theatre Company season. Like this year's two current world-premiere plays: Appoggiatura, by three-time Pulitzer finalist James Still, and Benediction, the completion of celebrated author Kent Haruf’s Colorado plains trilogy, adapted for the stage by Eric Schmiedl. Both plays were first read at the 2014 Summit, and then selected for full production this season.   

So what is a reading, anyway?
Professional readings are rehearsed for at least a week, with a director, but with only minimal blocking, and little if any external production effects such as lighting and sound. In general, you will see some of the best actors in the country stand at music stands and read their lines, although, rest assured, the acting is often quite complex and moving. Readings allow the audience to focus on listening to the playwright's words, and their minds then fill in the rest of the picture. While the primary goal is to help writers see and hear their work in process for whatever the future may hold, 57 percent of all Summit readings have gone on to fully staged productions at the DCPA.  

Is one weekend at the Summit any different from the other?
Yes. The first weekend is designated as the “public weekend,” and is almost sold out. The second weekend is designated as “industry and subscriber weekend.” While the general public is welcome to attend either weekend, the first weekend features single $10 tickets to individual readings. The “industry and subscriber” weekend is more like a festival, with extra events, meals and parties that are all sold together as one complete weekend package.  

Colorado New Play Summit


What are your featured plays  this year?

Here’s a quick summary:

The There There by Jason Gray Platt
One couple traverses a lifetime in a single sitting in this expansive, stirring new play.  From their first touch in the present day through the next 45 years, the dynamics of their relationship fluctuate as quickly as the latest twists of technology. Packing an entire life into six potent scenes, Platt’s masterful dialogue probes thBrian Quijada of 'Victory Jones.' Photo by John Mooree heart and questions what it means to hang on to humanity as the 21st century advances.

The Crown by Theresa Rebeck
(A DCPA Theatre Company Commission)
For the small-town regulars at The Crown, life is an endless series of jokes and over-the-top conversations that liven up the neighborhood watering hole… until a well-heeled woman walks in and tries to buy the beautiful antique bar. A comedy with quirky humor and quick wit.

An untitled new comedy by Tanya Saracho
(A DCPA Theatre Company commission)
Mexican-born Lucia is hired to write for a Latina character on an L.A.-based TV series. She soon discovers that Abel, the Chicano studio custodian, has a windfall of plot ideas. As their friendship grows and she begins incorporating Abel’s insights into her scripts, Lucia’s professional stardom starts to rise, but her personal life only becomes more and more complicated. A smartly drawn Hollywood insider comedy from Tanya Saracho, recently named Best New Playwright by Chicago Magazine. 

Holy Laughter by Catherine Trieschmann
(A DCPA Theatre Company commission)
An Episcopal priest finds the reality of leading a church is radically and hilariously different than what she learned in seminary. As she wrestles with church finances, eccentric parishioners, changing sexual mores and her own doubting human heart, Abigail struggles to make peace with the realities of contemporary church life. Hymns, liturgical dance and a wicked tongue lift this antic portrait of a small, struggling congregation to comic heights. Trieschmann wrote last season's hit comedy, The Most Deserving.


Candy Brown performs at the 2014 Colorado New Play Summit.


Where do all of these new plays come from?

The DCPA accepts direct submissions from all playwrights residing in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Other playwrights must submit plays through an agent. In addition, the DCPA Theatre Company maintains a healthy commission pipeline. That means certain playwrights are paid stipends to write plays for the DCPA Theatre Company’s right of first refusal. Here is a current list of playwrights whose new works are in various stages of development through the DCPA Theatre Company’s development program:

José Cruz Gonzalez
Lauren Gunderson
Kimber Lee
Theresa Rebeck
Tanya Saracho
Robert Schenkkan
Eric Schmiedl
Mat Smart
James Still
Catherine Trieschmann
Paula Vogel

What else is happening at the Summit besides play readings?

Playwrights Slams:
Kristin GreenidgeThe Playwrights Slam is an informal, fun and free Summit tradition where selected playwrights share their works-in-progress in front of a live audience. It’s like a poetry slam, but for playwrights. The public weekend will feature the first ever Local Playwrights Slam at 7:30 p.m.  Saturday, Feb. 14, in the Jones Theatre. Attendance is open to anyone who has bought a ticket to an individual reading. Just call the Box Office at 303-893-4100 for tickets and to RSVP if you would like to attend. The Industry Slam the following Friday night (Feb. 20) will begin around 10:30 p.m. The Summit's four 2015 featured playwrights will be invited to read.

Observe Matthew Lopez’s Acting and Playwriting Workshops:
5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 14, and Sunday, Feb. 15, at The Jones Theatre
Open to all "local weekend" package holders
DCPA Playwriting Fellow Matthew Lopez is opening up his classroom for observation during two acting and playwriting workshops. The acting workshops will use scenes from four of his own plays, and the playwriting workshops will focus on scenes by local writers. It's a great chance for writers, actors and audiences to discover the relationship between a playwright's text and actors’ interpretations. Free.

Observe Paula Vogel’s Playwriting Boot Camp:
8 p.m. Friday, Feb 20; and 10 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 22
Available to all Industry and Subscriber package holders
Paula Vogel has garnered awards from the Pulitzer Prize to induction into the American Theatre Hall of Fame. She led the playwriting program at Brown University for more than 20 years, and now serves as a lecturer at Yale. She has taught and influenced countless playwrights over the years. "Industry and Subscriber" weekend package-holders are invited to join Vogel for her signature playwriting boot camp. No prior playwriting experience is necessary to participate. Reservations and tickets are required. Call the Box Office at 303-893-4100 to RSVP if you would like to attend.

Scriptopia Software Demo Session
11 a.m. Sat., Feb. 21

Utilizing tablets, Scriptopia aims to aid the re-writing and rehearsal process by digitally syncing new pages, notes, and more for writers, actors, directors, and stage managers. Off-Center has been experimenting with the software this year, and one of the Summit readings will use it during the two-week development period; DCPA staff will share our discoveries and challenges along with Scriptopia founder Kay Matschullat.

High School Playwriting Readings
8 p.m. Saturday, Feb 21, in Conservatory Theatre (Newman Center)
DCPA Education’s second annual one-act play playwriting program nurtures young writers in Colorado high schools. This fall, DCPA Education teaching artists conducted 143 workshops at schools all over Colorado. A committee blindly judged 158 submissions and chose three (to be named today) to be read at the Colorado New Play Summit. Each of the three winners will receive a $250 cash scholarship. Industry and Subscriber Weekend package holders may attend as part of their package, but this event is also open to the public with an RSVP.

Off-Center’s Cult Following: Secrets & Confessions

8 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 19 at The Jones
The DCPA’s Off-Center is a theatrical testing center that generates new ideas, experiences and practices for the DCPA. This programming is not part of the Summit, so it requires additional ticket purchases. The cost is $15, and it includes two beers and popcorn. But tickets at the Denver Center web site, or call 303-893-4100.


2015 Colorado New Play Summit: Times and Ticket information:
Summit days begin at 11 a.m. and events run well into each evening.

Public weekend:
• $10 Individual readings
• $34 (four-reading packages)
• $28 (four-reading packages for students and professionals under 35

Industry and subscriber weekend:
Packages range from $175 for students, subscribers and “Young Leaders” (35 and under) to $255 for full packages. Packages include meals and access to all events.

For more information on the 2015 Colorado New Play Summit, or to order tickets, call 303-893-6030 or click here to go to the DCPA’s web site.

The 2014 Colorado New Play Summit.

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John Moore
John Moore
Award-winning arts journalist John Moore has recently taken a groundbreaking new position as the DCPA’s Senior Arts Journalist. With The Denver Post, he was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the US by American Theatre Magazine. He is the founder of the Denver Actors Fund, a nonprofit that raises money for local artists in medical need. John is a native of Arvada and attended Regis Jesuit High School and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow him on Twitter @moorejohn.

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