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Playwrights Reflect on UTNT's Past

UTNT (UT New Theatre) presented by The University of Texas at Austin Department of Theatre and Dance is a yearly showcase of plays by third year M.F.A. playwrights. The fundamental principle of UTNT is to give new plays a full and vigorous rehearsal period that encourages collaboration among their artists and accommodates all necessary experimentation and revision. Design elements are intentionally kept simple—often a gesture toward design rather than full blown theatrical complements—in order to keep the actors and text predominant and streamlining the revision process.

Man with brown wavy hair
Martín Zimmerman

“Tomorrow's plays are at UTNT today,” says co-curator and Professor Steven Dietz. “UTNT is known as the launching pad to award winning and widely produced new work for the American stage.” Since its inception in 2007, UTNT has presented 14 world premieres, many of which have gone on to subsequent professional productions. UTNT plays were awarded the Yale Drama Series Award, the Keene Prize for Literature, the National New Play Network’s Smith Prize for Best Political Play, and the Kennedy Center’s Paula Vogel Award in Playwriting, among others.

Martín Zimmerman’s White Tie Ball went on to numerous readings around the country, was awarded National New Play Network’s Smith Prize for political theater, and garnered the playwright the Djerassi Playwriting Fellowship at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The play opened at the Borderlands Theater in Tucson, Arizona, where the play is set. “In many ways, [UTNT] marked a turning point in my career as a writer,” said Zimmerman. “Hearing my text in the mouths of such smart actors night after night allowed me to hear my writing in a way I hadn’t before.”

Two people on a blue stage
Erin Phillips's "The Tides of Aberdeen" (2010).

“It was an invaluable learning experience for me,” says Erin Phillips, whose play The Tides of Aberdeen was included in the 2010 season. “I wish that every production of mine could be as creatively rewarding as UTNT.”

"The great strength of UTNT was that it left me alone - and empowered me to build the team that was right for my project,” says Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig on the experience with her play Lidless. “I was given the gift of autonomy and creative freedom, which allowed me to test what I had written and take it to the next level." Lidless went on to receive the Yale Drama Series Award, David Calicchio New Emerging American Playwright Prize, Scotsman Fringe First Award, and Keene Prize for Literature.

UTNT 2013 brings four new dynamic works to the stage by Andrew Hinderaker, Kevin Kautzman, Gabrielle Reisman, and Sarah Saltwick. UTNT runs in the Lab Theatre April 18 - 28 on The University of Texas at Austin campus.

Friday, April 12, 2013