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New Voices Festival Celebrates Young Playwrights

Actors Theatre of Louisvilles' apprentices open their final production of the season tonight. The New Voices Young Playwrights Festival is a bill of ten-minute plays written by eight area high school students. The plays were selected from more than 500 ten-minute plays submitted by middle and high school students from Kentucky and Southern Indiana this year. Each play in the festival receives a full production, with a director, designers, a dramaturg, a cast of apprentice actors and a seat in the rehearsal hall for the playwright. This is the fifth season that Actors Theatre has staged full productions of the winning plays, which are also published in an annual anthology.  Education director Steven Rahe says the festival is a rare opportunity for high school  writers to see their plays on stage in an atmosphere inspired by the theater’s annual Humana Festival.“We’re seeking inspiration and guidance and information and translating that with new playwrights. So just like the Humana Festival fully stages its work and that’s what helps distinguish the Humana Festival from other new play programs, New Voices is riding that wave as well,” says Rahe.Sixteen-year-old Chanze Castro is one of the playwrights. His play “Cameron the Mango” is a fable about a talking fruit with a big dream– to lead his fellow mangoes out of their remote jungle home and into a new world to fulfill their destinies. This is the first play Castro has written, but the Valley High School junior says it won’t be his last."I never thought for one minute it would be published or anything. I was really surprised that my play made it," says Castro. "I would like to pursue it now that my director and my dramaturg have told me that I could pursue this and I could possibly go somewhere with it."The rehearsal process for a new play -- even a ten-minute play -- is intense, involving rewrites and edits along with blocking, character development and designing the sets, costumes, lights and sound. Actors Theatre involves the young playwrights as closely as their professional counterparts are in Humana Festival world premieres."In rehearsal, I’m showing them what my vision of the play was so they can match it as closely as possible," says Castro. "I can hit the emergency brake and change something any time I want. It’s a pretty powerful role." Rahe is directing "Cameron the Mango." He says he was drawn to the imaginative world of the script as well as its powerful themes. "This play is so creative and complete, as far as the world of the play goes," Rahe says. "It was filled with some truly delightful theatrical challenges. How do you perform a mango? The entire story takes place in a tree, what is that like? How do you represent a community of mangoes on stage, how do they work together to overcome this issue?" "The themes really speak to me," he adds. "This notion of not being satisfied with status quo, and reaching out with a dream and the guts to make a change, and to rally your community to take it to the next place is really profound. There’s an urgency in that theme that we need to hear." So how do you perform a mango? Nicely, says Castro. "There’s never a rude mango," says the playwright. "Mangos are really energetic, they’re friendly, they’re sweet, and they stand out from all the other fruit."Here is the full line-up for the New Voices Young Playwrights Festival:“Strangely Ever After” by Christine Oser (Eastern High School), Louisville, Ky.“Postmortem Proposal” by Meaghan “Bunny” Buckalew (Floyd Central High School), Floyds Knobs, Ind.“Paper or Plastic” by Clare Wolz (Mercy Academy), Louisville, Ky.“Cameron the Mango” by Chanze Castro (Valley Traditional High School), Louisville, Ky.“Please” by Jennifer Winstead (Eastern High School), Louisville, Ky.“Life From a Fish Bowl” by Hannah Watkins (South Park TAPP), Louisville, Ky.“Battle of the Sugar Plums” by Lily Payne (Floyd Central High School), Floyds Knobs, Ind.“Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby” by Bonnie M. Hopkins (Floyd Central High School), Floyds Knobs, Ind.Tickets to performances are free, but should be reserved through the Actors Theatre box office