The Theatre School > On Stage > Current Season > In the Spotlight: The New Playwrights Series
HEAD OF BFA PLAYWRITING
What is the New Playwrights Series, and what makes it unique?
Every Theatre School season is packed with thrilling work—whether it’s a bold staging of an American or Shakespearean Classic, an inventive reimagining of a childhood favorite as part of Chicago Playworks, or the cutting edge freshness of a world premiere production.
Since 2004, The Theatre School has been committed to bringing our audience a world premiere of a brand new, original play written by a current Theatre School ("TTS") BFA Playwriting Student. NPS is exciting on so many levels. For most NPS playwrights it is the very first time they’ve seen their work leap from words on a page to fully realized, in 3D, production of their work. That’s a huge milestone for any playwright, and I couldn’t be more delighted that many of our playwrights have achieved that milestone at TTS. NPS is not only a great experience for our writers, however. For our student actors it’s a unique opportunity to bring to life characters that no one’s ever played before. For designers it’s a chance to envision sets, lights, costumes, and sound for a world no one has created before. And for our audience, it’s a chance to be among the first to hear the voice of the next generation of American playwrights. NPS is the end of a four-year journey of hard, intensive work for the playwright. It’s a journey that’s filled with trial and error, discovery, constant revision, and tremendous growth. It’s also the beginning of their post-DePaul journey—NPS introduces the playwright to the Chicago theatre community as an artist in their own right.
What makes Chicago a great city for playwrights?
Chicago has rightfully earned the title "Theatre Capital of America." From storied institutions like The Goodman and Steppenwolf to the hundreds of tiny storefront theatres across the city, theatre is an essential part of the life blood of Chicago. For a young playwright, I can't think of a better, more artist friendly city to be in. For our students, Chicago itself is an extension of the classroom—our students are exposed to an incredibly wide spectrum of aesthetically diverse work, produced on every scale. For a playwright in the process of discovering their own unique voice, this exposure is invaluable—seeing first hand that plays come in all styles, shapes and sizes. We also bring Chicago to the classroom; our faculty is composed of many leading professionals in the theatre hooked into what is happening now. Students also get lots of exposure to the workings behind-the-scenes through internships and assistantships.
Does your professional experience as a playwright inform this process for your students?
Absolutely. I don’t think I could be an effective teacher to the playwrights without having a lot of experience to draw from. When an audience sees a play performed on stage they tend to give very little thought to the process that went into writing it. My job is to teach the students that plays don’t arrive fully formed, but rather they are the outcome of a long, complex process with many distinct stages. There are the early, messy stages that are all about freeing the imagination, following impulses, listening for organic character voices, and generating raw material. Later, it’s a process of constructing rough edifices from that raw material, revising, re-conceptualizing, and finding the play that wants to emerge from it. And in the later stages, the focus shifts to refinement, the rigors of structure and form, and learning to be ruthless with your own writing in the service of good storytelling. All that has to happen before you ever set foot in the rehearsal room, when a whole other kind of process begins. Knowing those stages from the inside, and understanding that each stage requires it’s own distinct approach, is key to guiding students as they embark on their own writing journeys. NPS is the last stop in a very long haul.
What's on the horizon for TTS playwrights and this series?
The community of TTS Playwrights thrives. Their work will be showcased in late May as part of our 14th annual Wrights of Spring Festival of New Plays. Fourth year playwrights will have workshop presentations of their new plays featuring professional actors and directors from the Chicago community. Our current third year playwrights will present readings of the new plays they are working on now—one of which will be selected for NPS 2017. And we’ll also see brand new works by our 1st and 2nd year playwrights.
Lastly, our alums of NPS are doing remarkably well. To mention a few—Hit the Wall and Exit Strategy by Ike Holter (BFA ’07) (Good Worker, NPS 2007) both had wildly successful extended run at the Steppenwolf Garage in 2012, and will be remounted off-Broadway at The Barrow Street Theatre in March 2013. Caitlin Montayne Parrish (BFA ’06) (Echo Boom, NPS 2006) also made an off-Broadway visit this year. Her play A Twist of Water, which was a critically acclaimed hit produced by Chicago’s Route 66 in 2011, transferred to 59e59 Theatres in NY. She’s also building quite an impressive career writing for television in Los Angeles. Mark Mason (BFA ’07) (Hurrah For the Next Who Dies, NPS 2008) recently debuted Allotment Annie at InFusion Theatre in Chicago.
Carlos Murillo is an award-winning playwright and the Head of Playwriting at The Theatre School. His plays have been produced widely throughout the US and have been seen internationally in Hungary, Germany, Slovakia, Poland, and Chile. Recent plays include: Your Name Will Follow You Home (commissioned by Steppenwolf Theatre), Mayday Mayday Tuesday (The Theatre School at DePaul), A Thick Description of Harry Smith (P73 in NYC, commissioned by Berkeley Rep), Diagram of a Paper Airplane (Sundance Theatre Lab, commissioned by The Goodman), dark play or stories for boys (Humana Festival at Actors Theatre of Louisville, Vigszinhaz, Budapest, Theatre der Stadt Aalen, Germany), Unfinished American Highwayscape #9 & 32 (Theatre @ Boston Court, LA), Mimesophobia (NYC Summer Play Festival, commissioned by South Coast Rep), and A Human Interest Story (Walkabout Theatre, Chicago, Theatre der Stadt Aalen, Germany). In addition, his plays have been seen at Circle X and Son of Semele in LA, Red Eye in Minneapolis, Soho Rep, En Garde Arts and The Public Theatre in NY, Annex Theatre and The Group Theatre in Seattle, the National New Play Network Showcase, and others. His plays have been published by Dramatists Play Service, Smith & Kraus, Playscripts, Heinman, and Theatre Forum Magazine. He’s been a resident artist at The Watermill Center, New Dramatists, and Chicago Dramatists. Upcoming projects include the world premiere in April 2013 of Augusta and Noble at Adventure Stage in Chicago, and the world premiere in March 2013 of The Dead Parent Club, a short piece commissioned by Bookwings, a State Department sponsored cross-cultural collaboration between The Moscow Art Theatre and the University of Iowa International Writing Program. His new play Your Name Will Follow You Home will be workshopped at Steppenwolf this spring. 2014 will see the publication of The Javier Plays, a hybrid dramatic trilogy/novel/faux monograph. He lives in the South Side of Chicago with his wife, stage director and fellow TTS Faculty member, Lisa Portes, and their two children Eva Rose and Carlos Pablo.
The Goodman Theatre Offner Prize, The Otis Guernsey Award from the William Inge Theatre Festival, and two-time winner of the National Latino Playwriting Award from Arizona Theatre Company. In 2012 his dark play or stories for boys was listed as one of the Top Ten Theatre Productions by Chicago Magazine.
Carlos Murillo is a Resident Playwright of New Dramatists in NYC