SMC THEATRE: A HOME FOR NEW PLAYS

At most colleges, the theatre program offers a dependable menu of classics and marquee “modern” plays. But not at Saint Mary’s: for more than 25 years, our Theatre Program has remixed the formula with frequent productions of new and recent works by living playwrights - many of them writers of color, women or members of other historically marginalized groups.

“At my previous institution,” comments Theatre Program Director Deanna Zibello, “the most ‘contemporary’ play ever produced had been written before my own birth. I was acutely aware that students were missing out on recent, and wildly innovative, developments in our field.”

This commitment to new works brings Saint Mary’s audiences into conversation with theatre as a living artform. Last fall’s production of THIS IS MODERN ART, directed by Assistant Professor Amissa Miller, was based on events both real and recent. In a post-show discussion, Chicago-based playwright Kevin Coval confided that the graffiti crew depicted in his hop-hop docu-drama (co-authored with Idris Goodwin) remains underground and subject to legal action for boldly tagging one of his city’s beloved cultural monuments. 

Professor Miller’s creative scholarship as a dramaturg specializing in new play development puts her in touch with both early career and established theatrical voices. Over the years, the Theatre faculty’s robust playwright network has brough West Coast and world premieres, as well as unpublished plays, to the LeFevre stage. A personal connection is also behind the upcoming production of DANCE NATION. Director Daniel Larlham met playwright Clare Barron as a student in one of his classes at Yale several years ago. Since then, Barron has emerged as a startling new voice in the theatre, with productions in London, New York and points west. DANCE NATION, her quirky drama about a middle school dance team, was a finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer and winner of the Susan Smith Blackburn award, which recognizes plays of outstanding quality by women. 

Rehearsals for DANCE NATION, as for most new works produced by the Theatre Program (Marfa Lights, Sera, Chaste, … and Jesus Walks the Mississippi, among them) were enriched by direct access to the writer behind the script. In conversation over Zoom, Barron shared with the actors insights into her characters and her writing process. At Saint Mary's, informal interactions with working theatre professionals are frequent, and can become indelible learning experiences that help theatre students envision a place for themselves within the profession. Says Professor Deanna Zibello, “Saint Marys' commitment to producing new work was one of the reasons I wanted to teach here.”   

Join us for the Theatre Program's latest production: Clare Barron's DANCE NATION, a fierce, funny new play about girlhood, ambition and desire. Live-streaming Oct. 22-24, 2020: stmarys-ca.edu/dancenation

Playwright Clare Barron in Conversation
Friday Oct. 23rd
6:00-7:00 pm

The playwright takes us inside her writing process and shares the artistic goals and personal experiences behind DANCE NATION. Director Daniel Larlham moderates.