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BWW Blog: Cassandra Hsiao - Curious Theatre Presents: 10 Plays Written By The Future In One Week 


10 playwrights. 10 plays. 5 days, give or take. 3 hour production in front of an audience of more than 100.

The numbers tell only part of the journey of 10 playwrights from ages 17-23 who found their voices at Curious New Voices National Collective. We were chosen by partner theatres from throughout the country for the one-week intensive that would cumulate in a professional staged reading festival on Saturday.

I did not know what to expect when I landed in Colorado, greeted by Curious Theatre company member Jim Hunt and the wide-open plains with mountain silhouettes in the distance. Doubts began to creep in at dinnertime-did I really belong here with well-read, passionate, accomplished playwrights, most of whom were older than me? The next days answered my question with a resounding yes: Yes, Cassandra, you belong here, in the theatre, telling stories that only you can tell.

We began each morning exploring the meaning of space, dancing to a drumbeat provided by Dee Covington, a founding member of Curious Theatre Company. We stretched and felt our spines open as we reached for the skies. We rolled around on the dusty floor, becoming one with the Earth. We looked for angles and corners and edges in the up, the down, the left, the right, the diagonals. If you walked into the room, you may have seen teenagers whipping their limbs in a random, uncoordinated fashion. However, if you were Octavio Solis-one of the most prominent Latino playwrights in America-and you walked into the room, you would have seen artists creating a tidal wave of movement art.

Every day, we composed a poem together, words spoken straight from the heart, each line building on top of each other. When Octavio read our poem of the day out loud, we felt united and no longer afraid of expressing ourselves, whether in strange prowling movements across the floor or in sharing our work with each other. He told us we had become one, from the whirling fan to the solid floor to our bodies to the sound of our breathing, and we created something beautiful by unlocking our hearts through movement.

The rest of Octavio's master class that Tuesday was equally poetic. He lead us through exercises meant to get our creative juices pumping in preparation for the unwritten play that would be fully produced in less than 5 days. We supported and affirmed each other, repeating lines that sounded good rolling off our tongues, lines that somehow would become a part of us.

After his electric master class, I felt the need to write and read and consume as much of the world through art as I possibly could. I stayed up in the wee hours of the night filling up my notebook. I sat entranced for hours reading play after play after play.

Over the next few days, we saw the Red Rocks. We sat by a stream and poured our hearts out while feeling the pressure of the 6pm deadline, when actors and directors would start to arrive. We witnessed the first table read of a brand new one-act play that did not exist two days ago. We listened to our characters and stepped through a portal into a mystery. We wrote from the heart, always three steps behind our characters-real people, real worlds. We summoned hail and lightning and thunder and flash floods with our dance sessions. We wrote-that is precisely the act that makes us writers, after all.

My experience with my director Robert Michel and my final cast starring Hattie Hodes and Cipriano Ortega as sister and brother in my play "Meri, Mark and the Mother of Sky" was unforgettable. We worked against the clock and cut straight to the essence of the play. My work underwent more than five different drafts with guidance from staff including education director Dee Covington, associate producer John Jurcheck, NNPN Playwright-in-Residence Emily Dendinger and instructor Josh Hartwell.

And when the house lights dimmed on Saturday night in front of an audience that were truly strangers to most of us, void of family and friends, we were whisked into 10 different worlds that dared to push the envelope. We couldn't help but feel pride because the work was no longer ours-theatre is collaboration, and each piece builds on top of another. At the after-party, we handed each other pieces of pizza and pieces of ourselves, every exchange of hands and words saying, I will never forget Curious, I will never forget you.

When Jim Hunt drove us back to the airport at 5am, I witnessed a Colorado sunrise. I saw the horizon as it was meant to be seen: uncluttered by telephone wires or buildings or smog. Curious presented my work to the world in the same way: unapologetic, uncluttered, bold, and life affirming. Curious told me theatre needs your voice. Now I can't escape it-the art of storytelling runs through my veins. No guts, no story-I wouldn't have it any other way.

Thank you to everyone at Curious Theatre for welcoming me and pushing me and believing in me. Thank you to fellow playwrights for letting me into your worlds. It was an honor to explore the universe with 10 young playwrights from Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Geva Theatre Center, Young Playwrights' Theatre, MCC Theater and beyond. Thank you to the Orange County School of the Arts who made this experience possible. I promise I am not done writing, and never will be.

For more information about Curious Theatre, visit

For more information about Curious New Voices National Collective, visit

Master Playwright Octavio Solis and Cassandra Hsiao (Photo credit to Cassandra Hsiao)

The front of Curious Theatre (Photo credit to Cassandra Hsiao)

Playwright Cassandra Hsiao with Director Robert Michel, actress Hattie Hodes and actor Cipriano Ortega (Photo credit to Cassandra Hsiao)

All 10 playwrights with all 4 staff (Photo credit to Jim Hunt)

Master Playwright Octavio Solis teaching a master class (Photo credit to Curious)

The cast of "Meri, Mark and the Mother of Sky" in rehearsal (Photo credit to Cassandra Hsiao)

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