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Colorado by Josh Hartwell

From THE MESS OF US

Colorado by Josh Hartwell

One of the first articles I wrote as the Colorado Regional Rep was about some of our mountain theatres. I included Creede in that article. So yeah, technically I’ve already written about Creede Repertory Theatre (CRT), but while I was there again in August, I thought it would be a cool idea (and helpful to fellow playwrights) to highlight the theatre’s Headwaters New Play Festival.

For six seasons now, CRT and the Headwaters Festival have provided selected playwrights—who have lived or are still living in the West—with the opportunity to hear their plays brought to life by professional actors, directors, and dramaturgs, all initially culminating in public staged readings. In those six years of the festival, six plays have also been fully produced on CRT stages. Before the festival was created, CRT was known for other world premieres, but those were developed in a less public way.

One of the plays in this year’s festival was The Mess of Us, co-written by Moss Kaplan and Greg Ungar. Kaplan was able to attend the work on the play throughout the week.

“Being given the opportunity to dedicate a week with a talented cast and director is an extraordinary gift for a playwright,” Kaplan said. “Plays are collaborative, and a script needs the intelligence and dedication of other people to bring it to life. Headwaters gave me the structure I needed to understand both the strengths and weaknesses of my script. It also gave me confidence as a writer (not an easy thing to have when working in isolation) because the environment was so positive and inclusive.”

Creede audiences, on the other good hand, get the chance to see brand spankin’ new world premieres, and even offer (careful) comments to the writers.

“I got a lot of feedback that was glowingly positive, and boy does that feel wonderful,” Kaplan said. “Writers need that kind of validation every once in a while. But I also got some incredibly insightful feedback from a few key people—folks who spend a lot of time reading, watching, analyzing and thinking about the mechanics of plays—and this feedback is what you really need to make your play better. That kind of feedback is risky to give, but I am always grateful for it.”

So what kinds of plays are they looking for in Creede?

“Headwaters is about the new plays of the West,” CRT’s Artistic Director Jessica Jackson said. ‘But we interpret West very broadly: frontier, independence, rural/urban divide, peoples of the West, playwrights of the West, etc. We also give special attention to plays that are right for CRT stages. It is one of the primary goals of the festival to fully produce some of the plays.”

This is, of course, fantastic news to any playwright, including Moss Kaplan.

“I would love for this play to have a full production,” Kaplan said. “The play has had four public readings and I have been working on it for four years. Each of the revisions and readings have been exciting and rewarding milestones. But a script is ultimately only a blueprint— a vision for something made real in the world. My dream is to get the house built and allow audiences to live in for a while.”

Another unique and encouraging aspect of Headwaters is its relationship to CRT’s flourishing theatre for young audiences curriculum. The CRT education department has commissioned and premiered two new plays per season for over a decade–a number of which have had further productions.

“We average just over 20,000 patrons over the course of one season,” Jessica Jackson said. “Our Young Audience Outreach Tour, which travels the southwest Sept-November reaches 24,000 school kids. Our summer rep audiences come from all over the country, and often from other countries. However, the majority of our audiences come from Colorado, Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico.”

That’s a pretty remarkable number of folks hungry for theatre and new theatre and theatre for young audiences. So, whether you write plays for the young or old, know that there is a stunning little artistic mountain town about 250 miles southwest of Denver. And in that town is a wildly popular professional theatre ready to support and cultivate new work.

For more information about Creede Repertory Theatre and the Headwaters New Play Festival, visit http://creederep.org/headwaters/

jhartwell@dramatistsguild.com