Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill is still learning the tricks of the trade.
With the COVID-19 crisis making live theater just about impossible, theREP’s producing artistic director has had to tinker with a new kind of theater experience. It’s been a challenge, but the 9th annual Next Act! New Play Summit is on at Albany’s premier theater and will run for four consecutive days beginning next Monday at 7.
“We’ve learned a lot about Zoom, and we do record these in advance because it’s just too iffy to do it live,” said Mancinelli-Cahill, whose troupe will do a series of readings Monday through Thursday from more than 400 plays submitted within the last couple of months. “We’d be doing very well in rehearsal, and then someone’s wifi would just stop working. Who knows, we might be doing this another six months, and if we are we’ll probably ship out some microphones to our actors and work with them on how to get better light in their house.”
The Next Act! New Play Summit will be shown on Facebook Live, Proctors Collaborative YouTube and Open Stage Media’s On-Demand Channel. Monday’s program will be focused on the young playwright contest and consist of six short plays submitted by students between the ages of 13 and 19.
“This year we almost got 70 entries from high school kids from all across the Capital Region,” said Mancinelli-Cahill. “That’s a big pile for us to get through, and we choose six of them and do readings.”
On Tuesday, the age range increases from 19 to 25 for the NextGen segment of the series. This year’s winner is titled “SLAM!” and written by Bronx native and University at Albany sophomore William Feerick.
“This is our category for college students and those young writers right after they get out of college,” said Mancinelli-Cahill. “We read the top play and then on Thursday we do our First 15 event, which means we read the first 15 minutes of our top five plays in that category and ask our audience which plays they wanted to see more of.”
Before First 15 closes the series, Kareem Fahmy’s new play, “A Distinct Society,” will be read on Wednesday night at 7. Already an accomplished playwrite, Fahmy’s work was one of more than 350 submitted to the Cap Rep reading group for evaluation. The submissions came from all over the country.
“We have 20 readers who read the plays blind, so they can’t google the author and learn anything about him,” explained Mancinelli-Cahill. “We cull this long list down to a top ten and then a top three, and this year everyone’s top choice seemed to be Kareem’s play.”
Born in Canada and of Egyptian ethnicity, Fahmy is now living in New York City. His play is about Iranian immigrants, a father and a daughter, who meet for lunch in a library located on the Canadian-U.S. border.
"It's a wonderful play, and Kareem is a just a delightful person," said Mancinelli-Cahill. "He's a very accomplished playwright and director."
Construction on the new Capital Rep theater in Albany is due to be done by the middle of September.
"We are going to reshuffle our season and see what we can do," said Mancinelli-Cahill. "Our new thrust theater is looking wonderful, and we're going to do everything we can to see that every one of our audience members has a safe and enjoyable experience."
Young Playwright Contest Winners
Grace Bombard (Loudonville Christian School), “An Artist’s Hand.”
Jeremiah Choudhury (Loudonville Christian School), “Just a Normal Friday.”
Megan Dellenbaugh (Bethlehem Central High School), “Almost a Fairytale.”
Clare Reilly and Regan Roberts (Guilderland High School), “The Deadly Dinner Party.”
Maya Terry Stein (Shaker High School), “Our New Colossus.”
Jasmine Van Dyke and Jonathan Jordan (Coxsackie-Athens High School), “A Series of Unfortunate Ideas.”
Schedule of events
Monday, July 13, 7 p.m. - New Voices: Young Playwright Contest.
Tuesday, July 14, 7 p.m. - NextGen: “SLAM!” By William Feerick.
Wednesday, July 15, 7 p.m. - “A Distinct Society,” by Kareem Fahmy.
Thursday, July 16, 7 p.m. - First 15.
How to watch
theRep’s Facebook Page, Proctors Collaborative YouTube, and Open Stage Media’s On-Demand Channel.