Thespis Theater Festival Announces Summer Finalist for 2016 Awards

Cast of "A Muslim in the Midst" by Anand Rao
Cast of "A Muslim in the Midst" by Anand Rao

As word began to trickle in for some of the finalists at this summer’s Thespis Theater Festival that they had been nominated, months of hard work, raising money, casting issues, rewrites and hurdles at every turn suddenly seem to take on new meaning. “It's nice to be acknowledged,” said “Bluff” playwright Lenore M. Skomal. “And it's a fitting reward for the time, effort, talent and hard work of my strong team. While we've been chosen as a finalist for best play, it's the entire crew that needs to be credited for bringing my work to life. I doubt we would have gotten to this place without them.”

Doing a festival show has its advantages, but it certainly comes with hurdles. While many participants jump into the process with little planning and resources, others like Ms. Skomal spend months working to create the opportunity to stand out amongst more than 70+ participants. The festival, which is one of the fastest growing theatre festivals in the past few years, is also the longest running.

Not surprised at the nomination, she admitted, “I've been working on this script for over two years, including six readings around the country. I knew it was ready and that didn't need any more work when we put it up in the festival. Not that other plays weren't, but I can only speak for BLUFF and my own standards.

Other finalists, like Playwrights Tim Realbuto and Matthew Martin (The Weak Ones), seemed more surprised. “We can't even put it into words,” they said. “We spent so much of the rehearsal process for The Weak Ones second guessing every little thing we did. Luckily we had an incredible cast and crew to hold our hands throughout the entire process. And now this? Wow... it's truly amazing!” No strangers to collaborating on new material, this team behind the musical Ghostlight, spent hours refining the writing and performances to this court drama.

The nomination alone is a major accomplishment in a field with so many productions vying not only for the money prize the festival offers, but because it validates their work and says that they are among the best. “I think it is an important step in the life of a Play and Playwright,” said Anand Rao, producing playwright for one of the more anticipated plays in the festival, “A Muslim in the Midst.”Getting picked from thousands of scripts by itself is an accomplishment. Making it to the final by competing against some seriously talented and trained writers and artists is a huge encouragement. For me, the most important factor is the reiteration of my abilities, and the consequential boost in confidence. Regardless of how much you write, or what you have done in the past, a writer is only as good as the last work. Though I have made a decent living for over 15 years as a writer, and written for a wide range of interests and mediums, I deliberately shied away from writing and producing my own work. I would certainly use this as an example, and a point of reference to move forward.”

The simpler your production, the better it is.” Said Mr. Rao, when asked what advice he would have for incoming participants. “Regardless of how much time is given to you, don't plan on time consuming tech and set-up process. Focus on the content, acting and the best possible presentation of the script. Avoid complicated and elaborate sets and props, and their transitions. With my experience of doing theatre in festivals, I had decided that I will not have anything more than what could fit in my car. We could set up and dismantle our whole set in 10 minutes, which I think saved a huge headache.” 

Breathe. Tell a story. Don't rush. Take your time to tell the best possibly story that you can.... and start pre-production months in advance if you ever happen to get that luxury,” advices Matthew Martin and Tim Realbuto.

For Ms. Skomal, the advice is: Prepare, prepare, prepare. Having the script ready is the first step. Now the work begins. Cast the best actors, book the right space for enough rehearsals, start your marketing now, hire a PR person to help out, reach out to everyone you know and have known personally to ask for their support, and most of all, check your ego at the door. If you need to rewrite, then do it. This process can make your work so much stronger.​

The finalists for the summer Thespis Festival include:

FINALISTS ~ BEST PLAY OR MUSICAL

THE ACTRESS – by Carrie Robbins

GAYBRAHAM LINCOLN:THE MUSICAL – by Jared Corwin

BLUFF – by Lenore Skomal

IT’S ALL ABOUT LORRIE – by Joseph Krawczyk

SOMETHING LIKE A FAIRYTALE – by Lawrence Dandridge

BOTANIC GARDEN – by Todd Logan

CARNIVAL GAMES – by Kimberly Alu

THE WEAK ONES – by Matthew Martin & Tim Realbuto

A MUSLIM IN THE MIDST – by Anand Rao

WALTER’S DEAD – by Mario Corry

BEST DIRECTOR

Kimille Howard from the play It’s all about Lorrie

Joe Ricci from the play Botanic Garden

Lawrence Dandridge from the musical Something Like a Fairytale

Jonathan Libman from the play Walter’s Dead

BEST ACTRESS

Kimberly Alu from the play Carnival Games  

Molly Esther Wilson  from the play It’s all about Lorrie

Susan Lucier from the play Botanic Garden

Maggie Champagne from the play Walter’s Dead

BEST ACTOR

Akira Fukui and Logan Curran from the play It’s all about Lorrie

Jeffrey Grover from the play Botanic Garden

Daniel O’Shea from the play Walter’s Dead

BEST SINGER

Sara Mossman and Charlie Tingen from the musical Gaybraham Lincoln

Erica Philpot from the musical Something Like a Fairytale

Congratulations to all the nominees! For more information about the festival and announcements on the winners, please visit the Thespis site by clicking HERE

Cast of "Bluff" by Lenore M. Skomal, take a bow
Cast of "Bluff" by Lenore M. Skomal, take a bow
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