Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Fire This Time Festival

The Fire This Time Festival produced three scripts that garnered Outstanding Original Short Script nominations this year.

God Will Know The Difference by Jiréh Breon Holder 

Hard Palate by Roger Q. Mason 
Time at The Penn by Keelay Gipson

About the Festival
The Fire This Time Festival is a platform for talented early-career playwrights of African and African American descent to explore new voices, styles and challenging new directions for 21st century performing arts, and move beyond common ideas of what's possible in "black theater."

Roger Q. Mason

Playwrights Jiréh Breon Holder, Roger Q. Mason, and Keelay Gipson talk to us about their work and the Fire This Time Festival.


What attracted you to working with The Fire This Time Festival?

Jireh: I have always been attracted to The Fire This Time Festival. It is such a community of impressive theater artists. When I got the opportunity to write God Will Know the Difference for their ten minute play festival, I hopped at the opportunity to join the community.

Roger: I've known for a long time that the Fire This Time Festival was an incubator for emerging writers of color. When I received an invitation to participate in this past year's festival, I could say nothing but, "Yes!" Here was a unique opportunity to join this nurturing artistic community and develop a new play. My piece in the festival, "Hard Palate," explores germophobia and internalized homophobia, topics often difficult to discuss within the black (queer) community. The Fire This Time Festival was brave and generous enough to take a risk on this play and give it a home. That's attractive.
Jiréh Breon Holder

What was your favorite part of working on this production?

Roger: My favorite part about working on this production was the rehearsal and production process itself. Plays come alive for me when I'm in process. The script is a blueprint for an event to be played out in three dimensions before an live audience. When I'm collaborating with a director and actors, I truly understand how to motivate and activate the language - linguistic, physical, and silent - towards dramatic action.

What was the most challenging part of working on this production?

Roger: Developing Hard Palate for the Fire This Time Festival was an exercise in out-of-town script development. I was in Chicago finishing my MFA at Northwestern while the play was being rehearsed. I communicated fairly regularly with the director and AD, about questions raised in rehearsal, alternative endings, character arcs to further explore. What I learned from the experience was how to render the world of the piece on the page with a specificity that can be heard, felt, and understood from thousands of miles away.

What was the oddest thing that happened during this production?

Roger: When I went to opening night of the show, one of the leads ran right up to me, recalling line flubs, revising blocking choices, and citing acting notes he had for himself - all before we shook hands and exchanged names. I told him he was doing a marvelous job, and I meant it. His energy, professionalism, dedication to "getting it right" inspired me. I'd written something that someone wanted to do justice to onstage. And, for a writer, there's no greater gift than than.
Keelay Gipson

What was it like working with The Fire This Time Festival?

Roger: The Fire This Time Festival truly takes care of its writers. The company offers a two year residency: the first introduces us to the NYC theatrical dialogue through a short play festival; the second affords us opportunities to present full length works. Afterwards, we remain a part of the creative, professional, and interpersonal community fostered by the Festival. The time and resources invested in us grant us invaluable support as we establish our professional foundations as playwrights in the American theatre. To my knowledge, there aren't too many opportunities like this available to unaffiliated, emerging writers.

Keeley: The Fire This Time Festival is so unique and inspiring because they produce new and exciting work from black playwrights.

You can follow these artists on Twitter

Fire This Time Festival - @firethistimenyc
Q. Mason - @OnionCreekProd

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