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Syracuse Stage Cold Read Festival Goes Virtual in 2021

Festival artists include playwright-in-residence Kate Hamill, solo artist Chesney Snow and Write Here local playwright Evan Starling-Davis.

Syracuse Stage Cold Read Festival Goes Virtual in 2021

All plays were once new plays. That's the idea behind Syracuse Stage's Cold Read Festival of New Plays. Now in its fourth season, the Cold Read Festival has seven different events featuring some of the freshest voices writing for theater today, nationally and locally, scheduled for Tuesday, March 23, through Sunday, March 28. Due to Covid-19, all events will be virtual with a mix of pre-recorded readings and live discussions with Festival artists.

Curated by Syracuse Stage Associate Artistic Director Kyle Bass, each Festival event takes patrons through a different stage of a play's development process from the writer's imagination to the stage. A full Festival pass that includes all events is $15. Visit or call Box Office at 315-443-3275 for tickets and additional information.

Two of the live discussion events, "On the Future of New Plays" on March 23 and "Craft Q&A: The Art of Playwriting with Kate Hamill" on March 28 are free and do not require a Festival Pass, but participants must register in advance to receive a Zoom link.

"I am proud of how Syracuse Stage has continued to make theatre during this very challenging time," said Bass. "While presented virtually, the return of the Cold Read Festival of new plays speaks to Stage's commitment to supporting and celebrating new work. And I see this year's Festival as a reminder of how new work can refresh our passion for theatre."

Cold Read kicks off on Tuesday, March 23 at 6:00 p.m. with the free event "On the Future of New Plays," part of the Syracuse University Humanities Center's Syracuse Symposium series. This virtual panel of Cold Read artists includes Kyle Bass, Syracuse Stage associate artistic director and Cold Read Festival curator; Kate Hamill, Festival playwright-in-residence; Chesney Snow, Festival solo-artist-in-residence; Evan Starling-Davis, Write Here featured local playwright; and Robert Hupp, Syracuse Stage artistic director. Discussions will surround the current state of the arts, what it means to be an artist in post-Covid-19 America and how their work can impact the future of playwriting.

The Festival continues Wednesday with Cold Open. This preview event is a conversation with Festival artists about their plans and goals for their work featured in the Festival. A live discussion will be held at 7 p.m.

Thursday's event, Under Consideration, will feature a cast of professional actors in a reading of "Queen," a new play by Madhuri Shekar that is under consideration for production in a future Syracuse Stage season. "Queen" premiered in 2017 and won the Outstanding Original Full-Length Script at the 2019 New York Innovative Theatre Awards. It explores truth, relationships and bees. The reading will be directed by Kareem Fahmy and will be available to stream from 12:00 a.m. through 11:59 p.m. There will be a live virtual discussion with Bass, Hupp and Fahmy about the play at 8:30 p.m.

Next up on Friday is Write Here, highlighting the work of a local playwright. A new play, "Madness, In The Clearing of Blue," by Evan Starling-Davis will be read by a cast of local actors and directed by Syracuse University Department of Drama faculty Rufus Bonds, Jr. Starling-Davis is a digital-age, Black interdisciplinary artist whose work has been featured in numerous galleries, museums and theaters internationally. The reading will be available to stream from 12:00 a.m. through 11:59 p.m. There will be a live virtual discussion with Bass, Starling-Davis and Bonds at 8:30 p.m.

Saturday presents Solo Act with a work-in-progress performance of "Aquaplane" (Working Title) by renowned performing solo artist, actor and musician Chesney Snow, co-created with Faye Chiao. Snow is a Drama Desk winner, three time artist-in-residence at Harvard University and teaching artist. He has performed numerous roles on Broadway, headlined Carnegie Hall and produced and starred in the music documentary "American Beatboxer," which was placed in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Snow's performance will be available to stream from 12:00 a.m. through 11:59 p.m. There will be a live virtual discussion with Bass and Snow at 8:30 p.m.

The closing day of Cold Read will feature multiple events with one of the most produced playwrights in the country, Kate Hamill. "Craft Q&A: The Art of Playwriting with Kate Hamill," a live discussion moderated by Bass, will take place at 2 p.m. This is a free event that does not require a Festival pass to participate, but requires advance registration.

Cold Read's final event, Draft/Pages, is a reading of Hamill's brand-new play-in-progress "The Piper" directed the Meredith McDonough. "The Piper" was developed with support of PlayPenn with the author as a Haas Fellow. The reading will be available to stream from 12:00 a.m. through 11:59 p.m. There will be a live virtual discussion with Bass, Hamill and McDonough at 8:30 p.m.

Available throughout the week will be a video recorded reading of new play by Bass called "The Cutaneous Rabbit Illusion." Directed by Hupp, the 30-minute one act play stars Hamill and her husband Jason O'Connell ("Amadeus" and "Talley's Folly") as estranged lifelong friends who reunite at a wedding and confront the wounds, losses and resentments of the past, testing the resilience, dependability and adult emotional complexities of friendships forged in childhood. This special event is a fundraiser for the Cold Read Festival. It may be accessed free of charge with a donation suggested.

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