“It can be difficult to find writing conferences that include playwriting because they usually focus on poetry or short story or things like that, so to get accepted to the two conferences I had my eye on was very exciting!” said Gaye Jeffers, Associate Professor of Theatre and UTC alumna.
Jeffers attended the Yale Writers’ Conference, an intensive writing program, in June. It was led by playwright Amy Herzog, whose play 4000 Miles was a runner up for the Pulitzer Prize in 2013.
“She is a really bright American playwright who was mentoring us to write something fresh and new,” said Jeffers.
This led to the beginnings of her newest Southern Gothic inspired play, Plywood.
“What was really great about that conference was that there was a great international representation. There were eleven playwrights there and I met playwrights from India, Ireland, Italy, Australia, England, New York, Chicago, Baltimore,” said Jeffers. “I teach theater history, and I was able to actually talk to an Indian playwright about Sanskrit drama. It was great to be there with people from so many different backgrounds and cultures.”
At the end of the conference, professional actors were brought in to read participants’ scripts.
“It was really great to be involved in that kind of development process.
Jeffers attended the 25th annual Sewanee Writers’ Conference in July.
Instructors included Daisy Foote, daughter of Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Horton Foote, and Dan O’Brien, who recently won the Horton Foote Prize for American Drama.
“It was an intense experience, like a quick grad school in that environment. It was an inspiration to work harder, work more, keep going,” said Jeffers.
That 12-day conference focused on work shopping existing plays. Jeffers worked on her play Philo, which was produced at Austin Peay in 2010 and at Tennessee State University in March, 2014.
Actors were brought in for the duration of the conference to read scripts as they were being work shopped.
“It’s really helpful to see the work, then have a chance to rewrite it before publication. It was inspired by Sophocles’ play Philoctetes but it has a very modern, contemporary take on it. That play is written in iambic pentameter, so a lot of people in the language world were intrigued by that play – and it was intriguing to write!” said Jeffers.
Jeffers plans to publish Philo, continue work on Plywood, and begin research on new plays.
I have had the best summer of growth as a writer. It has been really refreshing. I’ve been very grateful for these opportunities,” said Jeffers. “It was a summer of writing, exploring, and gathering new information to bring back to the students here. It has kind of helped me have more resources at my fingertips as a professor.”