With the closing of Charlotte Repertory Theatre in 2005, Charlotte became one of the only major metropolitan areas not to have its own new play festival.
In an attempt to fill this void, Actor's Theatre of Charlotte developed New Voices for a New Generation, a festival created for new playwrights to mount new works. The group applied for funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and were twice turned down, with the reasoning being that "Charlotte is not an area where an investment in theater is worthwhile."
Fortunately for Actor's Theatre of Charlotte, the Women's Impact Fund disagreed. The group awarded the theater company a $70,000 Art and Culture grant, to be paid out over two years, to fund the play festival.
More than 100 new works have been submitted to Actor's Theatre of Charlotte, with another 50 to 60 expected in the coming months.
A selection committee made up of Chip Decker, the theater's artistic director; Claudia Carter Covington, the theater's literary manager; and Karen Lamb, a local playwright, director and actor, will select 10 finalists from the submissions.
The finalists will then be narrowed to four. Those four finalists will present script-in-hand readings in front of critics and a festival audience, and the audience and critics will select the winner.
Each year's winner of the New Voices for a New Generation festival will receive a main-stage production of his or her play the following year.
The first New Voices for a New Generation festival is scheduled to take place Aug. 16-19 next year. Tickets will go on sale in late June, with single tickets and festival passes available for purchase.
The winner's play will then be mounted the year following the 2013 festival, with the hope that each festival will generate a new play and be an ongoing artistic process benefiting both new playwrights and Charlotte's theatergoers.
The Women's Impact Fund grant will fund every aspect of the new playwright festival, from supporting the playwrights during the festival to a mentoring program for aspiring directors to materials and crews for designing and building the sets to paying for sign language interpreters during the festival and the final performance of the fully-mounted show.
Robert Touchstone, the director of marketing and development for Actor's Theatre of Charlotte who wrote the grant proposal, sees the festival as "a step in the right direction" in moving Charlotte out of its bottom spot for supporting local artists.
Touchstone said he thinks the public will benefit from "seeing a play come to life from a reading to a main stage production."