Activate: Midwest is dedicated to developing and producing the plays of emerging theatre artists from Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Playwrights from these states submit their work annually, and three to four plays are selected for a staged reading each summer. The winning play goes on to receive a workshop production in Chicago. The goal of Activate: Midwest is to advance and expand the artistic reputation of Southwest Michigan by providing the community and WMU students with an opportunity to engage with emerging and professional theatre artists from across the Midwest. Supported by WMU student actors, playwrights, and directors as well as several community artists, the festival will facilitate collaboration between students and professionals and encourage theatre innovation through the production of new work.
Playwrights from the region submitted their work to the festival for consideration, and out of 81 submissions this year, three plays were selected to participate in the festival. Plays to be featured are Box Step by Seth Kramer, Blood Moon Baby by Emilio Rodriguez and Brooklyn Baby by Darcy Sturges.
Festival founder and Department of Theatre Chair Joan Herrington is looking forward to the stories being shaped at the festival this year: “In an array of styles - but all with devastating honesty - this year’s plays all happen to explore a search for identity and its relationship to the bond between parent and child. In particular, unexpected parenthood, children that are lost for one reason or another, and the power of family. It is a bond that often leads to heart-wrenching decisions.”
KEYNOTE SPEAKER: CHARLES SMITH
Festival producers are thrilled to welcome esteemed playwright Charles Smith to WMU as the festival’s keynote speaker. The festival will kick off on June 15th with a speech by Smith followed by a staged reading of his most recent play, Objects in the Mirror. Objects in the Mirror is currently enjoying critical success at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre. Participating playwrights and WMU students will have the opportunity to learn from Smith through workshops and response sessions over the course of the festival.
Thursday, June 15
7:30 - KEYNOTE SPEAKER Charles Smith with his most recent play, Objects in the Mirror, followed by a Q&A:
Who is Shedrick Yarkpai? Escaping the horrors of his war-torn homeland, this Liberian refugee hopes to begin anew in Australia. But his path to peace is haunted by an explosive family secret, and Shedrick must confront the ghosts of his past to reclaim his present. Charles Smith illuminates a war refugee’s dangerous odyssey in this gripping new play about identity, survival and the sacrifices of assimilation.
Friday, June 16
7:30pm – Blood Moon Baby by Emilio Rodriguez (followed by a discussion with the playwright)
In the wonderful magical realism style of Jose Rivera, Rodriguez explores power, individual rights and our instinct for love and acceptance in the world of sea lions and their trainers.
Saturday, June 17
4:00pm – Brooklyn Baby by Darcy Sturges (followed by a discussion with the playwright)
This startling drama examines the devastating impact of foolish young choices. Brooklyn Baby follows Jessa, a 17-year old girl, in her desperate attempts to get her baby Dayquan back into her custody. When resources aren’t available and with no support system, what options does a young girl have?
7:30pm – Box Step by Seth Kramer (followed by a discussion with the playwright)
A box step is a simple dance sequence that always returns the dancers back to their home position. This story is one of loss, rediscovery, and the intricate dance of a family trying to return to one another.
All events are free - no reservations are necessary. Call us at 269-387-6222 for more information.
Activate: Midwest is made possible by contributions from the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, WMU Cultural Events Committee and the WMU English Department.