BCP’s Southeast Texas Festival of New Plays accepting entries through July 2

Biguita Smith Hernandez, left, Ginger Mouton and Robert Fong rehearse a scene from “A Hollywood Marriage” for the 2021 Beaumont Community Players’ Festival of New Plays. Entry deadline for this year’s festival is July 2. Photo by Andy Coughlan

Shakespeare, Ibsen, Stoppard, Beckett and Sondheim are household names when it comes to theater. But they all had to start somewhere. There’s no guarantee that the next Broadway legend will be unearthed at Beaumont Community Players, but The Southeast Texas Festival of New Plays will give playwrights and audiences alike a chance to see works in their initial stages.

“The biggest reason to go see new plays, to direct new plays, to act in a new play and to write a new play, is because it flexes the creative muscle — there’s no reason why the next best writer, actor should not come from this area, we have the talent,” festival coordinator Julia Rodriguez said. “We can do innovative things, without losing people to Austin or New York or wherever people think that they have to go to make it. You can make it here.”

BCP is accepting entries through July 2. Cost to enter is $5, or $15 if entrants wish to have feedback on their entries, festival coordinator Julia Rodriguez said. Entries should be at least 30 pages in length or an hour long, and there is no set theme, although the play submissions must not have been performed previously.

This is the third new play festival, and the last one received more than 300 entries from around the world, Rodriguez said.

Two plays will be selected to be performed in an enhanced staged reading, meaning the actors will read from scripts with minimal staging. The winning entries, which will also receive a $250 award, will be performed Aug. 6 at BCP’s Betty Greenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 4155 Laurel Ave. in Beaumont. Tickets for the day are $5 and the all-day festival will include both performances, as well as talkbacks and, hopefully, some panel discussions, Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said festivals such as this are important ways to diversify the sorts of shows local actors can perform and audiences can see.

“It’s super important to expose audiences not just to favorites like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but to the possibility of what new original theater can do for our community,” she said.

Donny Avery directed “Gladiolus” by Jamie Knox for the 2021 festival. He said doing new work is an exciting challenge.

“It’s a piece of work that’s never been done, and so discovering all the little things and nuances about it during the rehearsal process is fun and challenging cause you wanna get it ‘right,’ ya know? All the while still making it entertaining,” he said.

The playwrights also get to hear their words performed, which is important in helping them develop the play further.

As an audience member, Avery said it is a chance to be able to see something only a handful of people have ever seen.

“Who knows when you have the next big hit on your hand?” he said. “I had a friend who saw ‘Avenue Q’ in its early days and loved it, and believed in it so much, he decided to invest in it. Well, that show went on to win the Tony for best musical and is still enjoying a very successful run. You just never know.”

The plays will draw on local acting talent to perform the works. Being able to work from a script with minimal rehearsal time gives opportunities for people to try their hand at acting without the time commitment of a full production.

BCP will hold general auditions for its upcoming season from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on June 25, and actors interested in participating in the festival may audition then.

Biguita Hernandez-Smith played Calliope in last year’s “A Hollywood Marriage,” by Brandi Eaton, and said the festival is a chance for cast, crew and audiences to share in a unique experience.

“The audience gets to anticipate what’s to come and be included in the celebration of a great new production along with the playwright, director, cast and crew,” she said.

The Southeast Texas Festival of New Plays will be a celebration of theater and the creative process. And if one of the new plays premiered in Beaumont goes on to become the next “Hamlet” or “Hamilton,” well, you can say you were there.

For information and to submit a play, visit www.beaumontstages.com/page/thesetx-playwrighting-festival, or through BCP’s Facebook page.

Anyone interested in being a judge may email rodrigueji683@gmail.com.

This story first ran in the May 27, 2022 Art of Living section of The Beaumont Enterprise.

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