One of the many legacies of James Houghton, who led the Drama Division from 2006 until his death, in August, was the strengthening of the ties between the actors and the 10 playwrights who study at Juilliard each year. Those bonds are forged early—the division’s season begins with the annual Playwrights Festival, in which student actors perform in workshops of new works by several of the year’s playwriting fellows. The three fellows whose plays will be performed this year talk about them below; the festival runs from September 7 to 10.
Dan McCabe, who has extensive stage, film, and TV acting credits, has also had his work performed in numerous venues. He’s in his second year of the program and his play Christina Martinez will be directed by Dayna Taymor. (Photo by Gregory Costanzo)
An image of two women hovering over a computer looking at one of their upcoming OkCupid dates came to me and I followed the characters from there. I had no idea where the story was going or why I was writing it. I knew I wanted the whole first act to take place in one day and the same with the second. I liked the idea of following one character and meeting all these other people throughout her day.
Only after finishing the first draft of Christina Martinez did I realize what it was about or where it came from; a person desperately wanting her external world to reflect her inner desires and possibilities.
Toronto native Jessica Moss has numerous awards for her playwriting but is also passionate about acting, dance, and improv comedy. She’s in her second year of the program and an excerpt from her A Girl Lives Alone will be directed by Jessi Hill. (Photo by Gregory Costanzo)
I wrote the play because I moved to New York last summer to start the playwriting program at Juilliard, and it was a pretty surreal experience. To prepare for the move, I decided to watch a lot of movies set in New York, because I was nervous and I thought that would make me more excited, but for reasons that remain unclear to me, I skipped Breakfast at Tiffany’s and When Harry Met Sally—and just watched Rosemary’s Baby a bunch of times. And Taxi Driver. And a lot of Law and Order: SVU. When I got here, when my family left and I was wandering around Manhattan by myself day after day, it was hard to perceive the city, or that I was in it, as something that was actually happening to me: I kept thinking that at some point I would go back to my real life.
The distinction (or lack thereof) between reality and imagination is a recurring theme in my work (and also my life), and so I started thinking about stepping into the New York of your dreams, or your nightmares, or the movies. And what that means when the majority of your experience in New York, or in any city, is localized in the building you live in. And what that means if there’s a murder in that building.
Voice alum Ted Malawer (Pre-College ’02; Barnard-Columbia-Juilliard Exchange ’06), now in his second year in the playwrights program, has written six novels and had his work performed in multiple theaters. His Daddy Issues: A Gay Romp Through History Starring Adolf Hitler! will be directed by Ed Sylvanus Iskandar. (Photo by Dirty Sugar)
Daddy Issues: A Gay Romp Through History Starring Adolf Hitler! is my version of a Holocaust play. It mixes fact with fiction and explores Hitler as a struggling gay artist set against a reimagined 20th century. Initially I wanted to write about why people do bad things. Of course, there’s no excuse for actually doing the bad thing, but what are the moments in one’s life that build toward disaster? Why does one person channel disappointment into something truly evil, while another—in this play, the fictional character Von Blergh—uses life’s frustrations as fuel to create art that has the potential to move, enthrall, and transcend.
Daddy Issues also explores what it means to be an artist, and what it means to be human. It combines original music, choreography, and some pretty twisted jokes to shine a light on a dark time in humanity, hopefully allowing the audience to ponder the decisions and influences that make up their own lives, and how they too want to be remembered.