Committee selects multiple plays by three writers

By Dana Glaser    

This year’s Playwrights Festival will feature a record-setting 15 one act plays, spanning a combined four hours and 40 minutes of production divided between Rugby Auditorium and the Drama Lab. At the same time, this year’s event set another record: three students — Justin Kuritzkes ’08, Esther Zuckerman ’08, and Charlie Green ’08 each penned two plays accepted into Festival.
    The six plays were chosen alongside nine others from 44 contenders. The submissions were reviewed anonymously by a 30-member reader and selection Committee made up of teachers, alumni, professional writers, actors and directors. Their votes are processed by a teacher designed program, which ranks the plays based on voting score. 
    “We never choose, say a play that ranked 14th over a play that ranked 12th or 13th simply because it would work better into our time frame,” drama teacher and Playwrights Festival producer Chris Moore said. 
    “We also do not pick plays based on a consistent theme and/or an equal mix of comedies to dramas. Whichever plays score the highest, those are the plays we produce,” he added.
    Each individual student could submit only two plays this year, whereas in previous years there was no limit. The first play was restricted to 35 pages; if a second was submitted, it could be no longer than 10 minutes. 
    This, says Moore, afforded better, more focused plays and also allowed the department to maximize the number of plays produced.
    Once their plays have been selected, writers can be as involved in the production as they choose, which means having two plays in the festival can require a lot of work.
    “I try to be very involved with both of my plays, but its impossible to go to every minute of every rehearsal, especially since I’m acting in a play as well,” Kuritzkes said, although he said it doesn’t bother him because he trusts his actors and directors. 
    “They’re a talented bunch, and they certainly don’t need me to be around all the time, even though I’d like to be,” he said.
    Reactions to the fact that three students have two plays in the festival have been varied.
Eli Petzold ’10, who scrapped his project in the middle of the writing process, said he thought the rules were fair, but that “in all honesty, it is sort of intimidating as a sophomore to see three seniors each have two plays in the show, but also sort of encouraging.”
    There were still others who cut their losses and said “may the best playwright win.” 
    “As someone who is 0 for 2 in the Festival, I fully support the policy: the festival is designed to celebrate the best plays submitted, after all,” Nick Merrill ’09 said.
Zuckerman’s first submission in 2005 was not accepted to the festival, while Tessa Williams ’06, then a senior, had two plays produced in the festival. 
    Zuckerman said when she found out this year that two of her plays were admitted, she felt kind of bad because she had “been the one complaining as a sophomore.”
    “It would probably be better if everyone could only submit one play,” she said. “Then everyone could have a fair chance. But on the other side of that, if you’re a writer and you write a lot, that limits you.” 
    Kuritzkes’ fortunes took a similar turn. 
    “If it’s any consolation to anyone, my first submission to the Playwrights Festival in 10th grade was not selected, while there were at least two writers that year that had multiple plays in the fest. I was understandably upset, and a little bit bitter,” he said.
“And then I started writing my next play.”