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New voices, new rooms

Submitted photos The New Voices Emerging Playwrights Retreat of the Ashland New Plays Festival brings together authors (top row, from left) Mikki Gillette, Lindsay Partain, Lorenz Qatava and Leslie Slape (bottom center) and Ken Yoshikawa (bottom right). Playwright E.M. Lewis (bottom left) will serve as host of the retreat.
Ashland New Plays Festival hosts retreat for Oregon playwrights

Collaboration may have become a bit of a corporate buzzword, but that doesn’t mean it’s an empty cliché, as the Ashland New Plays Festival would happily point out.

When five emerging playwrights gather with industry professionals at a retreat in Ashland next month, they will come together in the interest of shared objectives with the goal of learning from each other and from their mentors’ expertise.

ANPF launches its 2022 season June 2-5 with the return of the New Voices Emerging Playwrights Retreat. This year’s cohort features Oregon playwrights Mikki Gillette, Lindsay Partin, Lorenz Qatava, Leslie Slape and Ken Yoshikawa.

“The 2021 inaugural retreat brought playwrights from around the country together virtually,” said Kara Lewis, ANPF program manager.

“This year, the retreat centers on emerging Oregon playwrights. They will have opportunities to connect and recharge in the beautiful Rogue Valley, develop their creative work, and draw inspiration from being in community with industry professionals and fellow artists,” she said.

E.M. Lewis, no relation, will serve as host throughout the retreat. The award-winning Oregon playwright is well-known to ANPF audiences. Her play, “Song of Extinction,” was a winner in 2008, and she served as ANPF’s Fall Festival host playwright for eight years.

E.M. Lewis is also a teacher and opera librettist. Her work has been produced around the world, and is published by Samuel French.

ANPF Artistic Director Jackie Apodaca was eager to bring back the New Voices retreat for its second year.

“ANPF is committed not only to the recognition and development of new plays, but to supporting playwrights themselves,” Apodaca said.

“Our retreat gives us a chance to uplift a talented group of up-and-coming writers, while providing time and resources to support the evolution of their work.”

Apodaca is excited to focus on Oregon artists this year and hopes similar regional collaborations will benefit the playwright community in the years to come.

New Voices helps artists develop their creative work. But that’s not all.

“The retreat is artist-centered, not product-focused,” Apodaca said. “Another thing to note about this program is that it is not revenue generating. New Voices is purely mission-based.”

Heesun Hwang, a 2021 participant, wrote ANPF about how the retreat impacted her:

“The program provided me my first funded experience with a larger theater in my early career,” she wrote. “I was honored and so grateful to have had the funding, resources and new relationships from the New Voices program, especially amid the pandemic.”

All five of the New Voices playwrights from 2021 were invited to submit to the ANPF Fall Festival, for which the reading process is now in progress.

“New Voices 2021 playwright Carlos-Zenen Trujillo actually had a play reach the finalist stage for the festival competition in the same year he joined the retreat,” Apodaca said.

The world premiere of Trujillo’s “Christmas Contigo” enjoyed a run at Ashland’s Oregon Cabaret Theatre during the holidays.

Meet the playwrights

Mikki Gillette is a trans woman playwright whose work depicts the trans experience. Her play, “The Queens,” enjoyed a sold-out run at Portland’s Fuse Theatre Ensemble this spring. Her show, “Memetic Desire,” is scheduled for production by the Pittsburgh Classic Players this winter.

Lindsay Partain is an internationally published and produced Oregon playwright and member of the Dramatist Guild. Most recently, her 10-minute play, “Cookie Cutter Christmas,” was selected as a top-10 finalist for VetRep Theatre’s (Newburgh, New York) playwriting competition, and her new full-length play, “The Light Keepers,” was chosen to be part of Willamette University Theatre 33’s 2022 Summer Reading Series.

Lorenz Qatava is a poet, playwright, novelist and journalist based in Palm Springs and Ashland. He is the author of a gay romance novel set during the Almeda wildfire, a volume of poetry and short stories, and two stage plays. His writing career began after retiring from a 30-year career in international affairs, social marketing and public health.

Leslie Slape is the author of “The Harder Courage,” a historical tragedy play that was a 2018 ANPF finalist. She also wrote the short play “Envy,” performed during the pandemic at the Feelings Festival in Portland. She is a former award-winning crime reporter.

Ken Yoshikawa of Portland wrote the five-act play “Through Bonavia, or The Simple Truth,” which was workshopped at Artists Repertory Theatre in Portland. He also is an actor and a poet. His solo show, “The Art of Fly Swatting,” was selected for the Pan Asian Rep’s NuWorks 2019 in New York City.

Reach Ashland writer Jim Flint at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.