NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

January 10, 2013

A record year

New Works Festival sees highest number of submissions

After a decade of performances, Newburyport’s New Works Festival is making an impression on the theater community.

For the festival, area playwrights are asked to submit new plays that have not been staged previously. The submissions are then judged by a panel of theater professionals who choose a mix of works to be given to a director and actors to perform.

One full-length play, which opens the festival, is performed as a staged reading. Numerous one-act plays and short plays are memorized by the actors.

This year’s New Works Festival is set for Jan. 18 and Jan. 19, as well as Jan. 25 and Jan. 26 at the Firehouse Center for the Arts.

The program began 11 years ago as an opportunity to give local writers a chance to see their plays on stage. In the early years, the format was longer and included evenings devoted to senior playwrights and youth. But after a few years, organizers shortened it to two weekends and began promoting the festival to writers throughout New England — and momentum began to build.

That was particularly evident this year when organizers received close to 140 submissions from all over New England, breaking the previous record of entries of about 100.

“It went up 33 percent,” Firehouse artistic director Kimm Wilkinson said.

While several of the winners live in the Greater Newburyport area or in the Merrimack Valley, others hail from Boston, Brookline, Lexington, West Roxbury, South Yarmouth and Jamaica Plain.

Over the course of two weekends, the festival offers a mix of one-act plays, 10-minute shorts and a full-length play. During the past decade, the event has gotten the attention of local and regional playwrights — and theater fans, Wilkinson said.

“We’re getting more recognition,” she said. In an effort to continue to expand, organizers have worked hard to reach out to playwrighting organizations throughout New England, she said, while also relying on word of mouth.

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