Created as a meaningful way to celebrate its 75th anniversary, the Morgan-Wixson Theater (MWT) is engaged in a meaningful effort to amplify new voices to engage, challenge and connect audiences to each other and to the community at large, and unleash the greatest potential of what theater can offer our lives.
Last weekend I attended the first weekend of Morgan-Wixson’s New Works Festival, their first return to presenting live theater to the public since the pandemic shut everything down in March 2020. To maintain an environment safe indoors, members of the public must show proof of vaccination. , have your temperature taken and wear a mask inside. For full security protocols in place, visit https://www.morgan-wixson.org/covid-policy
I was so impressed with the two new pieces I saw, Boulevard of Audacious Dreams and Pretending, I decided to speak with Co-producer of the New Works Festival Jonathon Saia (who is also active with Morgan-Wixson as a DCI board member and play review board member) to learn more about how and why the New Plays Festival came about.
(Shari): Hi Jonathan. Can you give me an overview of the creation of the New Works Festival?
(Jonathon): The idea of doing new works has been thrown around the Morgan-Wixson for a while, but the timing has never looked good to balance them with our main season, kids’ program, classes, and variety of rentals. . Step into COVID and the world with a giant break. When regulations started to ease enough for us to open our doors, we couldn’t wait to invite people into space. But since we had no idea when and how or if our doors were going to close, we didn’t want to engage in large-scale productions. Instead, I decided now was the time to commit to mounting high stage readings of new works.
(Shari): Why the idea of presenting new pieces rather than shorter, well-known pieces, perhaps those in the public domain that would not require paying the rights to produce them since the Festival des uvres Nouvelles is free?
(Jonathon): The era we all share is about turning a page, growing up, opening up new perspectives and righting the wrongs. And as an organization that’s committed to being a steward of change, we wanted to embrace new voices and perspectives today, not get stuck in a version of the past. Which, on a personal note, was very exciting for me to be a part of. As a fellow writer and producer of television stories, I am delighted to see the work in progress; to learn how others see the world and to help me hone my own storytelling skills.
(Shari): How many new pieces were submitted for the festival and how did you go about choosing which ones to submit?
(Jonathon): We were quite shocked to find that within days of sending the post, we received dozens of submissions. Writers were clearly clamoring for opportunities to see their visions come to life. We ended up with around 100 submissions and narrowed them down to the 7 submitted over a five weekend run.
(Shari): Was it difficult to choose which seven to present?
(Jonathon): Oh my God, yes. With so many options, each had their personal favorites. But what we all shared was a commitment to raising storytellers and stories that the Morgan-Wixsons had not adopted in the past. My personal philosophy of theater is that it is an educational tool: to show an audience a world that they may not know, a lived experience that they may find foreign, perhaps even a point of view with which he does not agree, in order to illustrate that we are all in this set; that although the human experience may be varied, humanity is bound by the need to be heard and seen for the fullness of who we are. And this parts list fully embraces that philosophy.
(Shari): Can you tell me how you got involved as a member of the New Works Festival committee?
(Jonathon): I’ve been attending the Morgan-Wixson Theater as a performer, choreographer, board member and producer since 2009. I love this crazy troupe of artists – all volunteers, by the way, which is still mind boggling at the sheer number of things. that are not just accomplished. between our day jobs, but turn out to be something worthy of pride. So when Mirai Booth-Ong (VP, Production) asked if anyone from the play’s reading committee wanted to join the New Works Festival production committee, I was very excited to raise the hand. Not only to participate in the making of this exciting work, but for the chance to work alongside Mirai, who is not only an incredibly talented actress, but an incredibly patient and diplomatic person who is so inspiring to be around. for my own development as a creative and human.
(Shari): Live theater, of course, is the ultimate expression of true teamwork! This is something we all learn from the first time we get involved in a show and realize that there is so much more than the actors that appear on stage! (Photo from left: Jacquelin Lorraine Schofield and Mildred Marie Langford in Boulevard of Audacious Dreams)
(Jonathon): I grew up doing theater. It will always be my first love. The Morgan-Wixsons rekindled this love for me over a decade ago, when I was in their production of A choir line. It is my greatest wish for this festival that the new artists who have joined us stay and expand our family of creatives.
(Shari): You must be so proud of the positive audience reaction to the first weekend of plays, especially the enthusiastic conversations that took place during the speech of Boulevard of Audacious Dreams. It was such a wonderfully written and beautifully presented new play, imagining how Hattie McDaniel may have spent the evening awaiting her historic Oscar ceremony. And learning that its author, LaDarrion Williams, wrote the play while living in his car during the pandemic last year, made me realize that when you have a genuine passion for a project, nothing should. never stop you from completing it.
(Jonathon): Nothing is more exciting than being at the start of something new. Dreaming about where he can go with those who also share this dream. And to think, maybe I had a little helping hand to help him grow up. I want to extend a heartfelt thank you, congratulations and break a leg to all of our attendees – and our audience for sharing their laughter, applause and love. We couldn’t do it without you.
In summary, MWT is now hosting its first New Works festival, featuring one to two new plays per week for five weeks. The plays were chosen from an open series of submissions seeking previously unreleased plays for up to six actors, with each selected play having two performances on Friday and Saturday nights.
(photo left: Amy Coles, Akiko Morison, Grace Power and Francine Wong in Pretending)
Tickets are FREE with promo code novelties (suggested donation $ 20), with pre-registration via the box office at https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/cal/1221 The Morgan-Wixson Theater is located at 2627 Pico Blvd. in Santa Monica, CA 90405, and can be contacted by email at [email protected] or by calling the box office at (310) 828-7519.
For full descriptions and cast lists for each New Works Festival piece, visit https://www.morgan-wixson.org/newworks-shows
The two new pieces will be presented on October 1 and 2: