Welcome to the brand new DTF blog! We’re excited this year to be bringing you an eye-witness account of all the exciting happenings at the Dorset Theatre Festival, written by the very staff members and apprentices who make it happen every day! Check back here for great behind-the-scenes info and guest blogs by some of the amazing artists who call DTF their summer home. I’ll start this first entry with a quick intro: My name is Ashley, and I’m the Artistic Associate here at the Festival. This summer will be my fifth season with the festival. I found my way up here after graduating from Bennington College, where I studied directing and playwriting. I can’t wait to share with you all the things that make DTF such a great place to spend time!
Let’s kick it off with the annual Lark Playwrights Retreat hosted by Theresa Rebeck!
Though the official start of our season isn’t until June, the Lark retreat always seems like the start of the season to me. Each year in May, our partners at the Lark Play Development Center send a group of playwrights to Theresa Rebeck’s Dorset Hollow home to spend a week writing and workshopping new pieces together. This year we were joined by some retreat veterans: Suzanne Bradbeer, Brian Dykstra and Marisa Smith-Krauss and some first-time attendees: Kendall Kaminsky, Rogelio Martinez, and Vic Shuttee.
The basic structure of the retreat is that we get everyone to Vermont, and they write during the day, then everyone meets in the late afternoon to share pages they’ve worked on, before cooking and eating dinner together as a group and talking into the night.
The retreat is one of my favorite things the festival does each year, because Lark always sends us such wonderful playwrights. This year’s group is notable also for their acting skills, which made our daily sharing sessions particularly enjoyable. The plays developed this year ran the gamut from a drama investigating the power of Rock & Roll in 1980’s East Berlin, to a one act about female serial killer, to a tense, hip-hop infused piece about racism in corporate America. They were such fun to read, and as always, being able to witness a piece as it’s in the process of being born is so exciting.
We do a lot of development work at DTF in the summer, from big high stakes stuff like World Premieres where we are introducing a fully staged production to the world for the first time (sometimes with some serious star power to back it up), to our New Play Reading Series where we bring a playwright, director and cast in to spend a few days together in our farmhouse retreat clarifying and refining a work-in-progress (more on this process very soon), to our Young Playwrights Program, to living-room style readings where our staff and apprentices share the pieces they are creating.
All of these experiences are very playwright-centered, which is my favorite model (and I think the favorite model of many playwrights!) The Lark retreat is possibly the best example of playwright-centered work that we do, because the only people there are writers. I think that’s an invaluable opportunity, as a writer, to connect with other writers on a level of mutual understanding and appreciation. It certainly doesn’t hurt to do it in a place like Theresa’s lovely home, where you are surrounded by beauty.