To celebrate a decade of cultivating raw talent, the Alliance Theatre in Midtown has kicked off a full season of new productions on the Hertz Stage by current and past winners of the Alliance /Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition.
Playwrights ripe out of graduate school have gotten their start in Atlanta because of the program, with many going on to have successful careers in writing productions throughout the country and for television and film. The annual contest provides developmental opportunities and readings for all finalists and a full production for one winning play each season.
When asked why the Alliance puts such emphasis on the program during a panel discussion Thursday, Artistic Director Susan V. Booth simply said the theatre “would be dead” if it did not support new writers and adapt to new styles.
“Our society is shifting at a rate never before witnessed in human history,” Booth said during the panel, held at the center’s Black Box Studio. “If you don’t learn the language and learn the dance, you’ll be left behind. Every time we invite someone who’s brand new and infused with a new way of thinking, a new way of doing, a new way of wondering, we learn. We grow. We adapt as an art form. They’re why this organization will be around when my kid is ready to see theatre.”
The unique infusion was highlighted of new ideas was highlighted best during the reading of a scene from “In Love and Warcraft,” written by this year’s winner Madhuri Shekar. The play examines love and relationships through the eyes of an online gamer. Shekar, who said she grew up on the Internet, called it a “sweet and funny” take on the traditional romantic comedy.
The season kicked off Friday with “Choir Boy” by 2008 winner Tarell Alvin McCraney. The award-winning Atlanta native said the competition provided him a protective hub to create his own “sense of process.”
“You don’t forget when people take that sort of pride or risk in you, that they invest in you,” he said of Booth and competition organizers.
Other productions include “Warrior Class” by 2006 winner Kenneth Lin, which debuts Oct. 25; and “The Tall Girls” by 2012 winner Meg Miroshnik, which debuts March 7.
Celise Kalke, director of new projects, moderated the session and made a point to note the diversity of this season’s featured playwrights.
“It’s been a really interesting thing that the winners over the years are really looking like contemporary America,” she said, alluding to the fact that the winners vary in race, sex and cultural background.
The plays will be accompanied by free monthly readings of additional plays written by past winners and finalists.
If you go:
What: The Alliance Theatre/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition 10th anniversary season
Where: Hertz Stage at the Alliance Theatre, 1280 Peachtree St., Midtown
When: “The Choir Boy” by Tarell Alvin McCraney, now through Oct. 13; “Warrior Class” by Kenneth Lin, Oct. 25 through Nov. 17; “In Love and Warcraft” by Madhuri Shekar, Jan. 31 through Feb. 23; “The Tall Girls” by Meg Miroshnik, March 7 through 30