New Voices Program at PBTS Puts Important, Relevant Stories Into The World
Players by the Sea is looking for new voices to participate in a year-long program designed to bring original works to the stage. Established in 2016, the New Voices program was created as a vehicle to nurture and develop scripts by local playwrights. Now that theatres have gone dark during the pandemic, Players revived the program after a yearlong hiatus into a virtual platform “New Voices: Voices Unheard.”
“I created the New Voices program as a way for Players by the Sea to help nurture and elevate the voices of local playwrights. At that time, Players had a history of doing world premieres by local playwrights. New Voices was developed as a way to give playwrights an opportunity to develop their play over the course of three months,” says program founder Bradley Akers.
“We took a year off to determine what was the next step. When we went into quarantine and the pandemic started to take center stage, the theatre decided let’s pivot and give an opportunity for local writers to engage virtually. And so New Voices was that program that came out at the top of the list. I’m thrilled to be stepping back in to support the program and be with the theatre as they lead us through this new vision.”
This year, New Voices will be facilitated virtually by a panel of writers and theatre makers. Akers unveiled the third season of the program this week – with a special twist. All submissions must incorporate a mystery subject which will be revealed Friday morning at www.playersbythesea.org. Concepts must be received by 11:59 p.m. Sunday for consideration.
“We are asking you to develop three pages of dialogue that integrate a mystery subject creatively, however you want. Dialogue will have a beginning, middle and end and feature at least two characters. It must be diverse and inclusive and use as much creativity as possible,” says Akers. “You only have the weekend to submit your three pages of dialogue that integrate the mystery subject however you want but it must be creative for this new iteration of New Voices. It doesn’t have to be what you’re going to end up writing about. That’s the beauty of it. It can be about whatever your creativity is sparked when we give you the mystery subject.”
The submissions will be distributed to the panel who will blindly score the content and select the winning three playwrights. Despite the virtual component, all submissions must be accepted from Duval, St. Johns, Nassau and Clay counties. Participants must be 16 and up and there is no fee to enter.
“We want to keep it local to Jacksonville. We want to keep the writers here in our home base. Once we select those three writers, they are going to undergo 12 weeks of development. The first six weeks weekly and biweekly Zoom calls where they will be working on play structure and character development, journey and dramatic structure. After those six weeks, they will be on their way to creating their play,” Akers says.
“It’s been amazing to watch how these new plays have [come to] life after a year of development. I firmly believe that Jacksonville can be on the map theatrically and a big part of the driver of that can be new work because we have incredible writers here. In this time of quarantine when we aren’t physically in the theatre space, it’s up to you, the seasoned writers who might have worked published or produced in town of the aspiring writers who want so badly to tell a story and have other people speak your words. That’s what this program is for.”
The inaugural year produced plays by Drew Brown and Kelby Siddons. James Webb III developed his play “A Seat at the Table” during the second year of New Voices. The third year focused on Young Voices and brought plays by young playwrights Lauren Hancock and Worth Culver to the stage.
“I know all of us are trying to identify how we adapt to these changing times when we can’t all be in the theatre space together and so Players by the Sea is really excited to bring back New Voices. We’re still trying to determine what the culmination of the program looks like. We can’t say on this date we’re going to have this great big showing. I know the theatre is looking for options to perhaps after the New year, we might be able to put these three pieces on stage for a smaller audience,” muses Akers.
“In order for a playwright to know they have a play they need a space and an audience. Right now, we’re focused on the development and the writing and hopefully grow that into a bigger celebration of new work. We have to continue developing work and we have to continue putting important, relevant stories into the world so we can continue to have important, relevant theatre out there to produce when we come back.”