KNOW Theatre’s 2021 Playwrights and Artists Festival is back and in front of live audiences.
The Playwrights and Artists Festival, which involves three sets of two plays running on consecutive days, returns for its 18th year with a two-weekend engagement running from Nov. 19 to Nov. 23 and Nov. 26 to Nov. 28. The plays are written based on three paintings selected by the KNOW Theatre’s founder and artistic director, Tim Gleason. Playwrights are able to submit works from across the country.
Gleason provided further insight into this year’s selection process.
“I have many associates through the [Kennedy Center American College Theater] Festival that I call on to help with selection,” Gleason wrote in an email. “We had 86 submissions this year. We split them into groups by painting and send them off to my colleagues. They choose their top 10, we then switch readers and get down to their top five with a number score. I read the last 15 and score them. All readings are done without anyone knowing the playwright.”
Announced in a KNOW Theatre press release, this year’s schedule of selected plays is as follows: “A Voice in the Prussian Sea” by Aly Kantor and “Good Bones” by Chris Shaw Swanson, inspired by Mary Rose’s painting “Stairway to Heaven” on Nov. 19 and Nov. 26, “Maybe Tomorrow” by Brian Leahy Doyle and “The Spot” by Judd Lear Silverman, inspired by Judy Irwin-Salton’s painting “Family Picnic” on Nov. 20 and Nov. 27 and “Origin” by Ron G. Rosenfeld and “Supporting Actors” by Louis DeVaughn Nelson, inspired by Hannah Goldberg’s painting “Eat More Chikin” on Nov. 21 and Nov. 28.
This year’s festival comes after 2020’s Playwright and Artists Festival was confined to a virtual format.
Jeff Tagliaferro, ‘17, the assistant artistic director of KNOW Theatre, explained the process behind putting on last year’s festival.
“After canceling all of our live performances in March of 2020, we jumped into Zoom to present last year’s Playwrights and Artists Festival,” Tagliaferro wrote in an email. “While theatre is never great in a digital medium, we found success as we had playwrights from California, Illinois, Miami and [New York City] involved, and since our performances were Zoom-streamed we were able to host the playwrights and their friends and families who otherwise would probably not have traveled all the way to Binghamton for the event.”
Now the crew at KNOW Theatre prepares to return to a live audience, and Tagliaferro, who is also directing “Maybe Tomorrow” and “Supporting Actors,” detailed the creative process behind the festival thus far.
“We have a pretty small space,” Tagliaferro wrote. “Intimate is the best word for it. We work out of an old firehouse on Carroll Street just beyond the hubbub of the State Street bars [in Downtown Binghamton]. Attempting to rehearse six plays at the same time in our space is hectic but also really fun! Typically, for our main stage productions, we rehearse for six weeks and actors are called anywhere from 12 [to] 20 hours a week. The festival is a different beast. We cast the shows after a mid-October audition and set off rehearsing for about four weeks prior to opening night. Since we all split time on the stage for rehearsals, each cast only gets somewhere between [four to] 10 hours of rehearsal a week. It becomes a very condensed process comparatively.”
As the show dates draw near, Tagliaferro said audiences can expect a variety of stories and experiences from the coming festival.
“As always, we have an eclectic handful of plays; a few endearing love stories, some sociopolitical commentary, time travel and even some farm animals,” Tagliaferro wrote. “I think the ultimate draw is the [discussion] with all the artists involved. Each night after the performances we bring the artist, playwrights, musicians (there are also original compositions created, inspired by the artwork) and actors up onto the stage to discuss the processes with the audience. The festival always ends with great conversation.”
Gleason, meanwhile, said he was excited to bring the festival before a live audience once more.
“Having the audience with us is where theatre thrives,” Gleason wrote. “It is that exchange of energy and thought in the same room that has kept theatre alive through the centuries.”
For those interested in the Playwrights and Artists Festival, more information and tickets can be found on KNOW Theatre’s website.