BWW Interviews: NEW VOICE PLAY FESTIVAL Offers Local Actors Chance to Create Original Characters

BWW Interviews: NEW VOICE PLAY FESTIVAL Offers Local Actors Chance to Create Original Characters

The New Voice Play Festival, opening on June 20 at the Old Opera House in Charles Town, WV,, provides the opportunity for audiences to witness completely new and original plays from playwrights all across the nation and vote on which play is their favorite. The four plays chosen this year cover a broad emotional spectrum, dealing with subjects varying from how to spend your last 24 hours on earth to dysfunctional families to plumber's posteriors.

"The New Voice Play Festival is a great opportunity for local performers to create a character from the ground up. There are no expectations for how these characters should be portrayed. Each director with their cast gets to go on that journey of discovery" said Gabrielle Tokach , who plays Ginny Hurd in the show Ethel.

"The directors all have a very specific view of how they want their show to look and they aren't afraid to take risks. They might do something totally different than another director and it's great to have people guiding us as actors who want the best for us within the lines of the story" said Catherine Ellzey, who plays the Lady Mayfly in Shimmer.

The 14th Annual New Voice Play Festival seeks to showcase four new, rarely performed original one act plays. Each show is a one act non-musical play, about 20-30 minutes in length. Audience members will see fully staged and costumed performances of all four chosen shows during each performance of the New Voice Play Festival.

"Audiences will get to see four very different one act plays, some funny, some touching and all entertaining" said Linda Romero, who plays the title role in Ethel.

"The shows are absolutely hilarious! Where else can you see four brand new shows in one sitting?" said Rene Farabaugh, who plays Rochelle Fiore in Mama's Almost Birthday.

In Shimmer, written by Tess Light Los and directed by Christine Brewer, two mayflies with only 24 hours to live debate whether to pack in as many activities into their last hours as possible, or fully enjoy all of the small moments and little things in their brief life. Shimmer also features Zach Little as Gentleman Mayfly and Charlie Perkins as a variety of Mayflies.

Ethel, written by Seth Freeman and directed by James Wright, shows a strained relationship between mother and daughter when Ethel's daughter, Ginny, returns home to West Virginia after a bitter break-up and entanglements with the local law enforcement. After a series of disasters, the pair realizes how true the phrase "like mother, like daughter" is. Ethel also features Alan Harner as Sheriff Sgt. Bernie Barry, Zak Miller as Gene Hurd, Gwen Leonard as Joanie Meekin, John-Michael Rolnick as Rand Burstyn and Shari Shrewsberry Martin as Myrna Burstyn.

In Mama's Almost Birthday, written by Lily Rusek and directed by Ed Conn, dependable daughter, Isabelle, is throwing her mother a birthday party a week early because Isabelle's sister can't seem to fit their mother's actual birthday into her schedule. The comedy features plenty of dysfunctional relationships and a surprising plot twist. Mama's Almost Birthday also features Lauren R. Hugg as Vera Barber, Sarah Celec as Isabelle Barber and Charlie Perkins as Lenny Weintraub.

The comedy Plumber's Butt, written by Jay Huling and directed by Karen Paone, features a physically and mentally ailing couple, Harvey and Carol, who have tried everyone to cure their illnesses to no avail. When Carol's sister discovers a surprising method she believes can cure their illnesses, the pair has to see if they "have what it takes to get to the bottom..... of the Plumber's Butt". Plumber's Butt features Lee Hebb as Harvey, Amy Hebb as Carol, Katie Kennedy as Vicki and Will Heyser as Tim.

Though the four productions which were selected for performance are not related by storylines or any common theme, the directors and actors work very closely, sometimes even jumping from one production to another within the festival.

"My greatest challenge is being in two of the four shows. In Shimmer, I play three different parts, and in Mama's Almost Birthday, I play Lenny. So I'm juggling two shows. Thankfully, I work with the greatest actors and directors for both shows." said Charlie Perkins, a cast member in both Shimmer and Mama's Almost Birthday.

The actors agree that the opportunity to participate in the first production of a new, unpublished play is definitely a unique and memorable opportunity.

"New Voice gives the audience an opportunity to be a part of the creative process--to directly respond to a new play in its early stages of life." said Tokach.

"These plays really are "new" and as a result, you get to create a character with no preconceived notions of how she should be played, because you've never seen someone else play the character before" said Romero.

"What is unique is that the selected plays, never before seen, give the audience a chance to hear from new playwrights, hence New Voice." said Shari Shrewsberry Martin

"Each of the winning plays is an avenue for the actor to create the character. Usually, when we perform we are compared to other actors who have played the role [in previous productions]. With the New Voice Play Festival, our interpretation of the character becomes the baseline for future productions" said Farabaugh. "The idea is pretty exciting; to break new ground on a character is a rare opportunity" added Perkins.

The New Voice Play Festival outcome is decided by the audience. Each audience will be asked to vote for their favorite play after each performance and the winner and runner-ups of the New Voice Play Festival will be announced after the matinee performance on June 22. Performances are June 20 and 21 at 8:00 PM and June 22 at 2:30 PM. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students. All performances occur at the Old Opera House, 204 N George St. in Charles Town, WV. For more information about the New Voice Play Festival or information regarding submission for the 2015 New Voice Play Festival, please visit

Photo Credit: Old Opera House

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