A.E. Hotchner Playwriting Festival hosted by Performing Arts Department

Features staged readings of three original plays

Three aspiring playwrights will present staged readings of their works Sept. 25 and 26 as part of 2007 A.E. Hotchner Playwriting Festival, sponsored by the Performing Arts Department (PAD) in Arts & Sciences.

Named in honor of alumnus A.E. Hotchner (A.B. and J.D. ’40), the festival consists of an intensive two-week workshop that culminates in the staged readings. This year’s workshop, which began Sept. 15, is led by acclaimed dramaturg Michael Bigelow Dixon, director of studio theater programming and associate artist at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Each of the participating plays — which are selected by jury — also will be eligible for a full production as part of the PAD’s 2008-09 season.

Playwright Noga Landau discusses her new work, “Chosen,” with actor Sathya Sridharan.

“The workshop experience is invaluable for playwrights,” said Carter W. Lewis, playwright-in-residence in the PAD. “It allows them to hear their work out loud for the first time, which can be a startling thing. Plus there’s a great energy and camaraderie that comes from having playwrights working together and cheering for one another.

“Plays are meant to be spoken,” Lewis continued. “I always ask students the question ‘Is a play more like a book or a symphony?’ And the answer is that it’s a symphony because a play is a kind of blueprint that the actors bring to fruition. It’s behavior in the written form.”

This year’s lineup includes two full-length plays. “Intelligent Life,” by alumna Lauren Dusek (LA ’07), is a funny and suspenseful tale about a ramshackle group of UFO chasers that discovers a child who may or may not be an alien. “Chosen,” by senior Noga Landau, tells the story of an Israeli wrestler who gives up a spot on the 1972 Olympic team and how he deals with a subsequent terrorist attack.

Also on the bill is one short play, “Yelling Man,” a morality tale about a cab driver’s unexpected reaction to a tragic accident, written by senior Lee Osorio.

Readings of “Intelligent Life” and “Yelling Man” will begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25. A reading of “Chosen” will start at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26.

In addition, Dixon will host an informal talk on “Writing Outside of the Box: Taking the Process to the Streets” at 4 p.m. today.

All events are free and open to the public and take place in the A.E. Hotchner Studio Theatre, located in the Mallinckrodt Student Center.

Hotchner, an acclaimed novelist, playwright and biographer, is perhaps best known for his memoirsPapa Hemingway” (1966), about his close friendship with Ernest Hemingway; and “King of the Hill” (1972), about growing up in Depression-era St. Louis. (The latter was adapted to film by Steven Soderbergh in 1993.) As a student Hotchner participated in a similar playwriting competition led by then-professor William Carson, famously placing ahead of classmate Tennessee Williams.

Dixon, dubbed “America’s dramaturg” by playwright Lee Blessing, joined the Guthrie Theater in 2001 and previously spent 17 years as associate artistic director and dramaturg/literary manager for the prestigious Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville. He has served as dramaturg for more than 120 productions; directed world premieres as well as classical works for major theaters around the country; and edited 35 volumes of plays and criticism.

For more information, call 935-5858 or visit ascc.artsci.wustl.edu/~pad/.