Theater, when written and acted with an honest and open approach, has a very unique ability to take hold of our emotions and move us in ways which few other things can. That is the power of the stage. As a society, it is important that we teach playwrights to use these mediums to speak to us in profound and personal ways that question societal barriers and encourage critical thought.
The Buffalo, New York based Against the Grain Theater Festival strives to be an example of this goal by exploring basic questions of human identity through plays, folktales and early narrative forms. The Artistic Director behind this vision, Neil Wechsler, has composed several plays, including Grenadine, which won the coveted 2008 Yale Drama Award, an internationally recognized award for emerging playwrights. Grenadine was published by Yale University Press and has since enjoyed several productions and readings. The ATG Theater Festival firmly believes that language based theater can bring people together to engage in the human experience. For an opportunity to appreciate this work, parts of its first production, a staged reading of Henrik Ibsen’s The Master Builder at Silo City in Buffalo, have been made available. Both photos and video from the production are available on the festival website at www.atgfestival.org
As part of its continued growth, the Against the Grain Theater Festival has begun a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign that ends September 13th. Funds are being raised to assist in their 2015 playwriting competitions. As an exciting opportunity for the new school year, the Against the Grain Theater Festival has collaborated with six cities: Buffalo, New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario. The concept is to hold one playwriting competition for high school students and a separate competition for college students. Scripts will be accepted from students from each of the cities ATG Theater Festival has partnered with. Competition guidelines are available on the festival website. The objective is to encourage young playwrights to explore their art and ideas without limitations. In addition, students will be treated professionally and will be provided with the unique opportunity to be heard outside of their local communities. Winners will receive a one-week workshop in Buffalo with local actors, directors and designers. The crowdfunding pledges obtained will be put to workshop costs.
As a rewards-based crowdfunding campaign, there are several possible benefits to those who pledge towards this Kickstarter project. These benefits include magnets, stickers and Against the Grain Theater Festival tee shirts. A pledge of 250 dollars comes with the reward of a personal tour of Silo City with Artistic Director Neil Wechsler and Director-in-Residence David Oliver to discuss the pre-production process for Goethe’s Faust, which will take place in the summer of 2015.
Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright Edward Albee was the Yale Drama Series contest judge for the play Grenadine by, as mentioned, ATG Theater Festival Artistic Director Neil Wechsler. In his review, Albee stated that the play was original, and that it both asked provocative questions and gave provocative answers. Funding this project will give students a real opportunity to learn how to create theater that can inspire and challenge us.