New Play Reading Series Fall 2019

The Smith College New Play Reading Series marks its 25th year with an eclectic fall season featuring new work by a Smith MFA candidate, two short radio plays, a reading from a memoir, and a dramatization of a short story by Sylvia Plath.

Readings are monthly on Thursday evenings in Acting Studio One in the Mendenhall Center for Performing Arts on September 26, October 2, November 14 and December 12. Readings, which include actors and directors from Smith and the larger community, start at 7:30 p.m. and are free and open to the public.

Leonard Berkman, the Anne Hesseltine Hoyt Professor of Theatre, began the New Play Reading Series in 1994, “My aim was to introduce our community to new plays they might feel they lacked sufficient time to come to know via reading from a print version but would be more than willing to spend part of an evening with, especially amid audience companions and staged by valued campus and local directors and actors they also wished to enjoy.” He has focused on choosing plays by female playwrights, although not exclusively, many from among finalists and winners of the International Susan Smith Blackburn Prize founded by Smith Alumna, Mimi Kilgore. 

The fall season stretches the idea of a new play reading to include staged readings of works not originally created for the theatre.  Two radio plays written by Alex Page, UMass professor emeritus who passed away last year, a reading from a memoir by Donna Jensen which was originally explored as a one-woman show, and a stage adaptation of a short story written by Sylvia Plath while she was a student at Smith. Even the simplest stage reading is able to bring life to the words on the page, whatever form that takes. An audience, some actors, a few chairs, a little light, all are more than enough to create a memorable and lasting experience of live theatre. Berkman began and continues to run the New Play Reading Series without a budget.  After 25 years, approximately 200 plays have been shared, developed, and enjoyed. The Fall 2019–20 season gives audiences a chance to get to know four more.

Fall 2019 New Play Reading Series

All performances are on Thursdays at 7:30 Acting Studio 1 Free and open to public.

September 26: Two Short Radio Plays by Alex Page

  • The Cancelled Sky: The playwright imagines relatives, including his grandmother, taking their last train ride in 1944. To Auschwitz. 
  • Once in a Golden Hour: A solo interpretation of two strangers meeting on a beach. 

These readings are to share and honor the writing of Alex Page, a warm, funny unforgettable man who taught in the UMass Amherst English Department for 35 years and died last year at the age of 94. Smith graduate students Mary Beth Brooker and Marty Bongfeldt will participate in the readings. Tanyss Rhea Martula, Smith '66, is curating the evening.

October 3: Healing My Life: From Incest to Joy

Written and read by Donna Jenson, directed by Sheryl Stoodley
This reading by the author from her book, Healing My Life from Incest to Joy, will feature dialogue, audience questions, and music provided by guitarist John Sheldon. Northampton Community Television will film the reading.

November 14: Pook Again in Forget Forget, A Recollection.

Written and performed by Mary Beth Brooker
A heap of hay, a shadow play about memory.  

December 12: Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom by Sylvia Plath '55 

Directed by Hannah J. Simms 'AC
Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom is a dramatized performance of a short work of fiction by Sylvia Plath. The story—recently published for the first time in the Hudson Review and written while Plath was a student at Smith College—focuses on a young woman's mysterious journey by train.