Innovative Collaboration Produces a New Play Festival

The UNM Department of Theatre and Dance has partnered with the University of Memphis Department of Theatre and Dance to create Escape: A New Play Festival. Students from the UNM MFA Dramatic Writing Program worked with U of M graduate students in directing and acting in a new collaboration between the two departments. The results of that collaboration will premiere this weekend over Zoom.

In the wake of COVID, Holly Derr of the University of Memphis has been reimagining how to present theatre online. Enter her old collaborator and current Head of Theatre at UNM, Gregory S Moss. Together, used Holly’s developments and discoveries to work completely virtually with students from the two departments. The University of New Mexico offers an MFA in Dramatic Writing but not in directing or acting, and the University of Memphis offers a masters in Directing, but not playwriting, so it was the perfect set up to have this high-level collaboration and sharing.

Early in the process, Holly assigned directors from U of M to writers at UNM (she also directed one herself), and the writers were given a loose theme of Escape and six weeks to write their first draft. Auditions and casting were done over Zoom, and the teams of writers and directors worked very closely through the whole process. As Gregory Moss said “It’s been a productive and surprisingly say way to work between universities.”

This process will open the way for more collaborations online, which is particularly exciting in this digital era in which we find ourselves. For more information on the Festival and the schedule, check out the UNM Facebook Event Page.