Fifteen Years of Momentum

31714767_10155319989472127_9090695184206790656_nAs the denouement of City Theatre’s exhilarating and compelling season swiftly approaches, the illustrious Pittsburgh theatre annually elects to end things with a proverbial bang, keeping the electric pace of the theatre racing onward. Fittingly, the unique festival that ties up City’s season is Momentum—now in its fifteenth year—an impressively whirlwind collaborative festival that combines both workshopping and production of new plays. City Theatre’s Director of New Play Development Clare Drobot spoke with me about this year’s Momentum Festival and the stupendous plays on the horizon for this year.

Momentum Festival, which was pioneered by City Theatre’s former Artistic Director Tracy Brigden (whose respective run with the company lasted sixteen years) was created to and continues to generate and nurture an environment in which the national and local conversations and dramaturgical efforts can intersect, coexist, and dynamically generate a swath of new plays in a remarkable short amount of time. Though the duration of the festival is somewhat brief (running May 31st-June 3rd), the creative planning and logistical work for the festival is a season-long endeavor. Both Drobot and City Theatre’s Artistic Producer Reginald Douglas are responsible for curating the programming and writers, actors and other individuals that will be involved in the festival. The ideas of community and lasting relationships are tantamount to Momentum’s success and continuation, and Drobot emphasized that much of the preliminary planning and development for Momentum centers around seeking out individuals and projects that will “foster long-term artistic relationships.” A key aspect of the mission to uphold community and relationships is the follow-up world premiere or second full production that one of the plays featured at Momentum will enjoy. 2018 Momentum play The Burdens will be the recipient of the second run at City Theatre after the festival’s premiere.

This year’s Momentum Festival features four electric plays that range drastically in content and style, both illuminating Momentum’s commitment to diversity (of participants and creative vision) and outstandingly open and adaptable ethos. The plays—P.Y.G. or the Mis-Edumacation of Dorian Belle (by Terrance Arvelle Chisholm); The Burdens (by Matt Schatz); #F*ck7thGrade (by Jill Sobule); and The Haunted (by Claire Kiechel)—encompass a breadth of topics and theatrical tricks, from audience interactions with Taboo buzzers to a skype-live performance, that will surely enthrall audiences and participants alike. Drobot highlighted the not-at-all insignificant effort—which, crucially, is a team effort for everyone at City, from tech to actors to exuberant front of house staff—that is involved in the break-neck pace of Momentum, with rehearsals commencing the day before the festival and the entire production/staging process transpiring in a matter of hours and days. In addition to the expert precision and tremendous work put forth by City Theatre’s team and the team of actors, writers, production crews etc., Drobot noted that this year’s Momentum is particularly special as City Theatre will join forces with Dramatists Guild Foundation and the Dramatists Guild. As part of the festival, DGF Fellow Eric Micha Holmes (whose plays include Nimpsey Pink and Jackets in May) will serve as City’s writer in residence and be directly involved with In Their Own Voices, a partnership effort that brings thirteen Pittsburgh playwrights to center stage, that is co-hosted by the Guild’s representative Gab Cody.

What is fundamentally important to Momentum’s prosperity and growth, Drobot reiterated, is the mission of letting new works come to life and find their audience. Much of what makes Momentum phenomenally unique is City’s adherence to using Pittsburgh-based casts and crews, which allows for the projection of the robust Pittsburgh dramatic community onto a national scale and in a national dramaturgical dialogue. Moreover, the festival provides a unique, incredibly fast-paced creative fulcrum for creative relationships, like the workshopping of Sean Daniel’s The White Chip, that led to the working relationship between Daniel and director Daina Michelle Griffith to Daniel Krell and the eventual production in City Theatre’s main season. Momentum not only is a chance for individuals to witness incredible new shows and talents, but it also illuminates the amazing energy and ceaseless creative work happening constantly within the Pittsburgh theatre community. As Drobot astutely stated, City Theatre being an instrumental player in the creation of the dramaturgical cannon is “the epitome of success.” Anyone seeking to be entertained while catching a glimpse of the enormous potential that characterizes Pittsburgh theatre and City Theatre would be remiss to not take part in 2018 Momentum Festival.

For more information about City Theatre and the Momentum Festival click here. 

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