This weekend, "discover 'nearly new' work by living writers, performed by some of Atlanta's hottest directors and actors in dialogue with amazing writers, producers and theater makers from Haiti, Quebec, Belgium, France, San Francisco, Denver, Chicago and Los Angeles! Celebrate the voices of women and youth through plays, graphic novels, and readings from and about the French-Speaking World. Shine a light on contemporary issues like bullying behavior, our obsession with Facebook, our litigious society and mothers and daughters."
Meet Park Krausen, artistic director of Theatre du Reve and the person who first conceived of the Nearly New Festival, running through this Sunday at the Goat Farm. Featuring works by acclaimed writers from around the world, this year's Nearly New Festival also featured a play by former Essential Theatre playwright Lauren Gunderson!
A large part of Essential's mission is supporting the writers whose work we produce, even after the festival has closed, and for this reason any festival called "Nearly New" was bound to catch my eye. Why would a company choose to produce work that is "nearly" new? Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to talk with Park and learn more about what inspired the festival and why she feels so passionately about it.
How long has the Nearly New Festival been taking place?
This is the first year. It may become an annual or a bi-annual event.
And whose idea was the festival?
Where did the idea for the festival come from?
At Theatre du Reve, we have encountered so much new or nearly new work from around the French-speaking world. We cannot possibly produce all of these plays. We were also looking to connect with more women -- writers and directors -- and look at work for younger audiences. This was the impetus.
What constitutes "nearly new," in terms of whether a play should be in the festival?
Work that hasn't been done in English or in the US before in public.
Why do you like the Nearly New Festival? What is unique or special about it to you?
It gives us an opportunity to look at work that others in the US might not have access to, simply because it is written in French. We get to share it with the world for a first hear.
Sometimes playwrights approach us with work about the French-speaking world, as was the case with Lauren Gunderson's play, The Revolutionists. We were able to give it a read and put her work together with director Joanie Schultz who has done a lot of new play development in Chicago.
What can people get from this festival that they can't get somewhere else?
You can hear work from the French-speaking world that hasn't previously made it to the US. There is a different history, tradition, fearlessness. The government support sometimes gives playwrights from the French-speaking world more freedom.
We are bringing over artist Beleck Georges from Haiti, who generates work in his country with a different urgency and a different relationship to laughter, storytelling and starting from nothing but a meeting of the people in the room.
Where did the themes for this year's festival come from?
Women and youth are often under- or mis-represented in theater. We wanted to hear from the mouths of babes and women -- be they directors, actors, creators, writers, translators or illustrators.
How would you fill the blank: "If you like X, you definitely want to be there for the Nearly New Festival"?
The Kendeda Readings or Essential's New Play Festival or the Playwrights Center or Youth Creates.
Do you have any final thoughts to share with readers about the festival?
We would love to invite audiences and theater-makers into the conversation: might this work find a home in the ATL? Feedback from the audiences is crucial so we can come back to playwrights, translators and theater-makers with questions and ideas.
-Interview by Jennifer Kimball, Managing Director of Essential Theatre
and occasional stage and production manager with Theatre du Reve