Hotchner festival features staged readings of three original plays

Three aspiring playwrights will present staged readings of their works Friday and Saturday, Sept. 26-27, as part of the 2008 A.E. Hotchner Playwriting Festival, sponsored by the Performing Arts Department (PAD) in Arts & Sciences.

Named in honor of alumnus, novelist, poet and playwright A.E. Hotchner, the festival consists of an intensive, two-week workshop that culminates in the staged readings. This year’s workshop, which began Sept. 13, is led by Marge Betley, literary manager and resident dramaturg for the Geva Theatre Center in Rochester, N.Y.


“The Hotchner Festival helps aspiring playwrights — with the support of PAD actors, faculty directors and the guest dramaturg — develop their work from the page to the stage,” said Carter W. Lewis, playwright-in-residence in the PAD.

“The audience is an integral part of the process and an ongoing participant in the development of each play,” Lewis said, noting that all three works will be followed by post-show discussions. “Attendees can say to themselves, ‘I’m going to the theatre; we are working on a play.'”

The festival begins at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 26, with “Better,” a funny and thoughtful comedy by senior Margaret Stamell, which tells the story of Eddie, a young man left confused and scrambling by the movement from one relationship to another.

Next up is “All at Once,” at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27. Written by senior Kari Lombard, the play centers on Ruthie, who has two friends, two mothers and some very perplexing questions about the nature of present, past and future.

The festival will conclude that evening at 7 p.m. with “Candlestick Park,” by recent graduate Elizabeth Birkenmeier (LA ’08). The play — which will receive a full production in March — explores the fine line between love and manipulation as experienced by the world’s most dedicated Beatles fan.

Hotchner, an acclaimed novelist, playwright and biographer, is perhaps best known for his memoirs “Papa Hemingway” (1966) about his close friendship with Ernest Hemingway; and “King of the Hill” (1973) 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.

Betley, who joined the Geva Theatre in 2000, has supported the development of dozens of plays, offering commissions to nine writers and producing 12 world premieres.

A former Fulbright scholar in dramaturgy and a contributing writer to Opera News and American Theatre, she has served on funding panels for the National Endowment for the Arts and the Rockefeller Foundation and served as a script evaluator for the Theatre Communications Group’s playwright residency program.

Freelance dramaturgy credits include Denver Center Theatre Company, the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, Stage 13 Productions in New York and the Playwrights Center in Minneapolis.

All three readings are free and open to the public and take place in the A.E. Hotchner Studio Theatre in the Mallinckrodt Student Center. For more information, call 935-5858 or visit