PlayFest: Bringing the Talent to Orlando | Theater | Orlando Shakespeare Theater PlayFest: Bringing the Talent to Orlando | Theater | Orlando Shakespeare Theater

PlayFest: Bringing the Talent to Orlando

Q & A with the scheduling/coordinating guru behind PlayFest


Have you ever wondered how Orlando Shakes gets so many great playwrights, directors, and actors to the Theater for PlayFest? Well, you’re in luck! Just the other day, we were able to get a behind the scenes look at the planning for Orlando Shakes annual new play festival from Paige Gober, Company Manager for Orlando Shakes.

OST: What’s the role of a Company Manager at Orlando Shakes?

PG: As the Company Manager for Orlando Shakes, I organize the housing and travel for all of our out of town artists, including actors, directors, and designers. I also manage all of the auditions, stage manage our summer children’s show, create staff events and activities, and coordinate our apprentice training classes.  I’m also the assistant to Jim Helsinger, Artistic Director for Orlando Shake, which means I get to work on a variety of special projects throughout the year.

audition-numbersOST: How does your job change or evolve during PlayFest?

PG: Fun fact: I have 300 emails designated for PlayFest 2016 alone. Compare that to less than 100 for “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” Cynthia White, Director of New Play Development at Orlando Shakes, has the wonderful task of making the artistic decisions behind PlayFest—what plays we’re producing, which directors are best suited to work with that play and playwright, which actors we’re casting, and how we are presenting the festival. Once Cynthia makes those decisions, I take care of the logistics, or rather, how to get all those people in the same room for one week.

OST: What do you think is the most exciting part of PlayFest?

PG: One of the most exciting aspects of PlayFest is how many playwrights, actors, and directors from across the nation join us for one week in Orlando! I still book the travel and housing for all of those guests, but the number of out of town people joining us for PlayFest is as high or higher than any other show we do during the season. For example, I’m flying in two actors and one director for “Every Christmas Story Ever Told,” but for PlayFest we’re bringing in six playwrights (including Moises Kaufman for our reading of “The Laramie Project” on Saturday, November 12th) and one actor/director.  In case you’re wondering, coordinating airport pickups for six people in one day is very challenging!

This year, I’ve handled a lot of communication with the actors in PlayFest, starting with the auditions we held at the beginning of September. We originally scheduled two days of auditions, but there was enough interest that we were able to fill a third day. I’m very proud and excited by that fact; it gave us the opportunity to audition an additional 35 actors. After our casting team made their decisions, I sent out job offers to the majority of the actors. Though the audition hours can be long, it’s so rewarding whenever I can tell an actor they booked the gig. If I can call an actor instead of emailing them, I love hearing the difference between “Hello, this is [insert name here]” and “HI PAIGE!!” when I say I’m calling from Orlando Shakes a few days after their audition. After the casting was complete, I sent out and collected all of the paperwork from EVERYONE so they could receive their stipends. That takes a lot of time and energy, but it’s vital to make sure the process is efficient and correct.

“The Day Before Yesterday” at Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s “PlayFest: After Pulse.”

OST: What else did you get to do for PlayFest?

PG: We have about 50 people working with us for PlayFest and many of them are new to town or to Orlando Shakes, so I arrange a “hangout” for our PlayFest company after rehearsals and performances. Usually I recommend one of our local bars like The Thirsty Topher or local restaurants like Marlow’s Tavern. Paige tested, Cast approved.

OST: We want statistics! Of the directors/playwrights/actors/etc that are part of this:

  • How many came from out of town?

PG: Every year is different, but this year six of the seven shows were written by out of town playwrights. We’re also doing a portion of the “After Orlando” plays, which is a collection of short plays written in response to Pulse by playwrights from around the world. We’re happy to include works by local playwrights like Aradhana Tiwari, David Lee, Viet-Dung Nguyen, and Paul and Lisa Castaneda in this performance.

  • How many came from out of state?

PG: Our playwrights flew in from NYC, LA, Austin, and New Orleans for PlayFest 2016.

  • How many are new to PlayFest?

PG: Israel Horovitz (Man in Snow, Glouster Blue), Lee Blessing (For the Loyal), and John Biguenet (Broomstick, Night Train, Shotgun) are all returning PlayFest alumni. Karen Zacarias and Allison Gregory are new to PlayFest this year.

OST: What else is cool that we should know about PlayFest?

  • “After Orlando” is a powerful collection of plays that showcase so many different voices and perspectives; it’s a cathartic, global response to a tragedy. I stage managed the “After Orlando” reading that Margaret Nolan produced in October, and it was amazing to hear how the audience responded to the play. I think these plays capture the support for those who were there that night, the fear that gripped us all, and the unity that came afterwards.  I hope that the published collection of plays becomes a written record for future generations asking “What happened?” and “How do we overcome this?”

Kayla Jean Mraz, Orlando Shakes Marketing Intern