As a part of the 2019/20 school year, Shenandoah Conservatory will participate in The Farm Theater’s College Collaboration Project. This is an initiative that supports emerging female playwrights and emphasizes student voices within a suggested topic presented by the season’s commissioned writer. This year, the program’s playwright, Judith Leora, is developing a full-length play exploring the concepts of free speech and hate speech.
Besides providing students with the experience of working with a playwright who is writing specifically for a certain demographic within modern day situations, the project takes them on a journey that begins with an idea and concludes with a full production. The process began with a conservatory-wide Skype meeting with Leora and director of the Farm Theater, Padraic Lillis. Within the conversation, Leora and Lilli presented the topic and asked for any and all thoughts that Shenandoah students had on the theme, as to accurately represent the voices of college-age individuals. At the start of August, the Farm Theater invited Shenandoah students to attend the show’s first reading in New York City. Accompanied by Director of Acting and Associate Professor of Theatre Scott Hudson, M.F.A., students observed a reading in a professional environment where actors, directors, writers and other parts of the creative team worked together to make the first edits on a piece. The next steps involve sending the script to two other participating colleges, Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Florida, and Birmingham Southern College, where they will independently produce the piece before it comes to Winchester in April. With each performance, edits will be made to the script by the playwright based on insights from the given college’s production before a final product is presented in New York City in the summer of 2020, bringing together professional actors and those involved in the college productions to complete the process.
“The most exciting part of this process is the community that it builds with an emphasis on the theme, which is an important one for this current, young generation — particularly on college campuses,” said Hudson. “And of course, the other part is it’s so exciting to have our students see a process go from an idea, onto paper, and eventually into production, and to share that with two other schools and professionals in New York City.”
Shenandoah will hold auditions in November and receive an updated copy of the script in March to begin rehearsals. The conservatory presents the show Thursday, April 16, through Sunday, April 19, in Glaize Studio Theatre.