Campfire Theatre Festival Starts Next Month, But Sparks Already Flying 

click to enlarge Left to right: David Kepner, Caitlin Susen Hartshorn and Tiara Thompson performed a reading of Sing to Me Now at Campfire Theatre Festival 2017.

Courtesy Campfire Theatre Festival

Left to right: David Kepner, Caitlin Susen Hartshorn and Tiara Thompson performed a reading of Sing to Me Now at Campfire Theatre Festival 2017.

Boise will be glad to know that Campfire Theatre Festival, now going into its second year, won't let off any smoke. It's generating plenty of heat, though. HomeGrown Theatre picked up one of the plays read at the festival last year, Sing to Me Now by Iris Dauterman, and CTF Artistic Director Dayna Smith said she hopes to turn Boise into a launchpad for visiting dramaturges.

"That's the most that we can hope for for our playwrights," she said. "We kind of never thought about this fact, that we can find these playwrights a network for themselves in Boise."

This year, there are plenty of cherry-pickable plays for local companies to consider. CTF runs Friday-Sunday, Sept. 7-9, at Boise Contemporary Theatre, and will include staged readings with limited set design of five plays: 
  • Little Perfect You, by Caitlin Turnage, is a coming-of-age story about Lemon, a little girl who must choose between her penchant for building battle robots and being her daddy's little girl.

  • The Fermi Paradox, by Katherine Vondy, tells the story of astronaut Joseph Morgan who, after his co-pilot is killed in a spacewalking accident, confronts loneliness, betrayal and maybe aliens.

  • Cold Spring, by Victor Lesniewski, is about the community fallout that comes after a teenager accuses a baseball coach of sexual assault.

  • What\\Washed Ashore//Astray, by Benjamin Benne, reunites twin sisters Cat and Chris at their family's seaside cottage, but every year, the tide rises higher, threatening to wash the cottage—and the twins' minds—out to sea.
In addition to partially staged readings, there will be an unstaged "Spark" reading of In Common, about a journalist piecing together two seemingly unrelated killings, by Quinn D. Eli.

CTF previewed the festival with its first Spark reading of Wimmer's The Originals, which took place in May. Wimmer has staged numerous plays around the country and been nominated for several awards, including the Ingram New Works Project at Nashville Repertory Theater and KCACTF's National Partners of the American Theatre Playwriting Award. The Originals was a semi-finalist for the Summer Playwrights Festival at Road Theatre and developed at Swarm Artist Residency.

Smith said the Spark series gives attendees a glimpse into the process of tweaking and polishing manuscripts into something they might see performed professionally on stage. The readings are also one more way for the festival to showcase work by people who come from underrepresented or marginalized backgrounds—a key part of Campfire's mission.

"We've always prioritized people who feel like they haven't been heard [and] who need to find a place," Smith said. "When we're casting our plays and looking for directors, we're looking for people who don't always feel heard."

Beyond the readings, the festival will include a selection of workshops, often taught by locals, including "Suzuki Basics" with Tracy Sunderland, "What's the Story?" with Leta Harris Neustaedter, "Exploring Object Theater" with Chad Shohet and an auditioning seminar with Tess Worstell. On the last day, Worstell, Emma Went and Amanda Baschnagel will hold a panel discussion on every young actor's dream: "Living and Working in NYC."

Not everyone will get to pursue a career in the Big Apple, but CTF will be there for people interested in drama from all walks of life, from local college students to people who want to get into acting or theater on the side. According to Smith, the laid-back, open atmosphere of the festival has a lot to do with Boise's theater culture being a particularly collaborative one.

"I think we are lucky to have a lot of relationships with local groups," Smith said. "It's lovely to have a community that isn't super competitive."

Correction: An earlier version of this story indicated Campfire Theatre Festival would stage a reading of The Originals by Lauren Wimmer. That play was read as part of the Spark series, but no reading of The Originals will take place at the 2018 festival.
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