They call it a “laboratory,” the Telluride Playwrights Festival, a laboratory meaning a controlled setting where research, experiments, and measurements are performed. Sound serious? It should. The Telluride Playwrights Festival has helped take plays to Chicago, Denver, and even New York City. With a mission “to help playwrights fulfill their vision in an intimate, communal setting against the backdrop of the majestic San Juan Mountains,” fulfilling visions, this festival is.
Founded by actress and writer Jennie Franks in 2006, the Telluride Playwrights Festival is her creation. Franks lived in England and LA before settling in Telluride, Colorado. She’s worked as both writer and director for various documentaries and plays. She founded Sparky Productions, a nonprofit who makes evidently nothing by hosting its annual function. Existing solely for the purpose of bringing new work to light, Sparky Productions does in fact cover costs for the lucky attendees, contributing to lodging and travel. Talk about giving back in the spirit of art.
Each winter, the Telluride Playwrights Festival accepts submissions of plays, and then that spring selects a small group of writers with whom to work with for the following summer. While there is a small fee to submit, it does assist the festival in covering some of those costs for production and hosting. But at just $10.00 a script, it seems like a more than fair deal for a submission fee.
When it comes to what the decision makers are looking for, they clearly state that they are searching for work that grabs the readers’ attention or makes others feel different in some way after experiencing it. Apparently all genres are acceptable, from comedy to tragedy, as long as the work is thoughtfully written. The festival claims that plays don’t have to be exactly finished, but that they should be mostly in place as far as the elements go. The Telluride Playwrights Festival, then, collaborates to give chosen works a little help.
In the intimate setting of Telluride, the lucky attendees have the opportunity to work with professionals from all over the United States: actors, directors, writers, and other professionals to get real support for their plays. For the duration of a week, participants get workshop space- time for presenting their work, receiving feedback, and getting constructive criticism. The environment for aspiring playwrights is honest, supportive, and all for the purpose of helping them bring forth their work and see it materialize on stage, which does happen in small doses at the Sheridan Opera House Theatre on the final night of the Telluride Playwrights Festival. This is where the community is welcomed to take part, listening to short readings and encouraged to share their suggestions.
The Telluride Playwrights Festival claims that they don’t stop working just because the day’s session is over. The laboratory moves. They take the discussions back to local homes, where those wishing to can take the creative process even further, discussing the flow of ideas, dialoguing the details of different works. For a playwright, aspiring or established, it sounds like a dream come true.
The Telluride Playwright’s Festival is hosted by (TPF), a laboratory for playwrights, actors, and directors