Playwrights produce one-act plays as part of local festival

The Starting Gate Play Festival gives the local community a chance to be a part of the playwriting process.


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The latest in local theater will be on display when Talking Horse Productions hosts its annual Starting Gate New Play Festival, Friday, Nov. 8 through 10. The festival, now in its fifth year, will showcase six new one-act plays from three up-and-coming playwrights. Each play will follow the prompt, “Win or Lose.” Local playwright Hartley Wright, Missouri Valley College student Makayla Rodgers and Val Verde Unified School District substitute teacher Kyle Beckedahl are this year’s playwrights.

Talking Horse artistic director Adam Brietzke notes that the festival allows outsiders the ability to get involved in directing, acting and producing plays.

“The playwrights do not necessarily see themselves as writers,” Brietzke said. “Most of our past playwrights remain active in mid-Missouri, not just in the theatre community but also in their chosen profession. Our volunteers ... are all professionals in other aspects.”

From start to finish the plays are a community effort. Throughout the year, the plays are criticized at workshops that are open to the public. Audience members will also be allowed to give feedback to the playwrights during the festival.

Nathan O’Neil knows first hand the effects of Starting Gate. He wrote plays for last year’s festival, and is now a board member for Talking Horse Productions.

“It’s a great opportunity for the community to see new works in production and be part of the process,” O’Neil said in a 2018 interview with KBIA.

The plays are approximately ten minutes long. According to Angel Kenison-Scott, a playwright for the 2017 Starting Gate Festival, the time limit provides its own challenge.

“You still have a very developed play with some very deep meaning in it, but your point of attack has to be almost from the get-go, and your end has to be that abrupt,” Kenison-Scott said in a 2017 interview with Vox Magazine.

Whether through editing, writing or producing, the festival allows locals the ability to let their creativity shine.

“The best part though is seeing how a script goes from an idea to a full production,” Brietzke said. “It's a great reminder that everyone has creativity brimming inside of them, they just need the outlet and opportunity to express it.”

Playwright Hartley Wright has seen from the start how Starting Gate has changed over the years.

“I was in the very first Starting Gate,” Wright says. “With each year they’ve really honed in on establishing the work of the playwright more and more”.

The festival runs at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 8 and 9, and at 2 p.m. on Nov. 10.

Edited by Janae McKenzie |

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