This Labor Day weekend, the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts hosts the 12th annual Page-to-Stage Festival. Featuring over 40 theatre companies from the Washington DC area, the festival allows theatergoers to witness readings and excerpts from new works. I personally had the opportunity to observe only a couple of the many plays premiering through this event.
Faction of Fools Theatre Company presented three scenes from their adaption of Alexandre Dumas’ Three Musketeers. Written and directed by Paul Reisman and starring Brit Herring, Drew Kopas, Justin Purvis, D. Grant Cloyd, Rachel Spicknall Mulford, Lindsey D. Snyder, and Toby Mulford, the play focuses on Cardinal Richelieu’s attempt to gain political power in France, while D’Artagnan and the Three Musketeers find a way to save the day. The play is still in the process of being written, but based on the audience reaction, I am sure we all look forward to seeing what the product will become.
The play is fairly similar to the typical heroic tale, but with an added twist. Faction of Fools’s goal is to bring Commedia dell’Arte to the Washington DC area, and their adaptation did just that. The art form originated around the early 16th century in Italy, and is characterized by use of masks, physical comedy, improvisation, physical comedy, and stock characters – such as foolish old men, young lovers, and scheming servants. Through use of these qualities, the company not only brings flair to the story, but also added humor.
I have always been a fan of Commedia dell’Arte, and I was impressed to find that the actors cleverly embraced the art form right down to their physical movements that connected with their stock characters, such as the graceful glide of “The Lovers,” and the quick and compressed movements of the “Servants,” which helped increase contrast between characters. I would be curious to see how Reisman further incorporates the art form into the finished product.
Arts on the Horizon aims to bring theater and education to children ages six and under. Their work explores numerous different topics, but one consistent characteristic is their choice to create plays without words. Instead, the performers make use of other forms of sound, such as props and music. The result is a new and stimulating experience for young audiences that allows them to understand what they are watching without lines going right over their heads.
For the Page-to-Stage Festival, the company presented The Young Spectaculars and the Front Yard Adventure. Written by David Kilpatrick, directed by Michael John Casey, and starring Melissa A. Caffrey and Stanley Andrew Jackson III, the story follows two children as they imagine ways to save the world from their own front yard. At the top of performance, Caffrey handed numbered props out to the children in the audience that they were later asked to throw on the stage when their number came. Casey’s choice to include the children in this manner creates the illusion that they are helping build the story, which is a creative way to enhance their imaginations.
As an individual interested in drama education and finding new ways to inspire an interest in theater at a young age, I would be curious to see future productions from Arts on the Horizon. They know how work around the needs of young audiences in order to create a story that they will understand, and based on the positive response from the children at The Kennedy Center, they are clearly doing their job well.
This weekend was my first experience with Page-to-Stage, but I was fascinated to catch a glimpse at these innovative ideas come to life. I look forward to witnessing what future Page-to-Stage Festivals bring to the Washington DC area.
Watch Saturday night’s performance of The Young Spectaculars and the Front Yard Adventure at The Kennedy Center (Scroll down to ‘Watch Past Performances’).
Reporting from The Page-to-Stage Festival: The Good Devil, In Spite of Himself and Aural Sex by John Stoltenberg.
Reporting from The Page-to-Stage Festival: The Law of Return by Alison Drucker.
The Schedule for the 2013 Page-to-Stage Festival.