Conversations in theater

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CAMBRIDGE, N.Y. >> By his own acknowledgement, David Andrew Snider's theater career is grounded in the classics — Shakespeare, Shaw, Chekhov. But for the past 10 years, the new executive director of Hubbard Hall Center for the Arts and Education has been focusing on developing new work for the stage — first as producing artistic director and CEO of Young Playwrights' Theater in Washington, D.C.; then as director of artistic programming at D.C.'s Tony Award-winning regional theater, Arena Stage.

"New work is really the future of the American theater," the fortysomething Snider said in an e-mail interview, "and theater is where the most vibrant conversations about what's happening now in our world are taking place."

And so, Snider — who replaced the retiring Benji White as Hubbard Hall's executive director in May — has created the community cultural center's first-ever "Winter Carnival of New Work," a 12-day exploration of new plays by new voices that began last weekend and continues Thursdays through Sundays through Feb. 1 in Hubbard Hall's black box Freight Depot Theatre/Gallery off Washington Street, behind the historic main building at 25 E. Main St.

The festival's centerpiece is "Nexus," a new full-length play by Danielle Mohlman that Snider helped develop over a two-year period while he was at Arena Stage. The two-person cast — Emma Jackson and Jonathan Colby — worked on the play with Snider last year in D.C.

"So," Snider said, "this festival began where we left off last year."

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Mohlman came to Cambridge over a month ago and rewrote and completed her play about love in the age of the iPod during rehearsals. "Nexus" is being given its official world premiere here in a fully staged production that is performed on each of the festival programs. "Nexus" will be joined at each program by staged readings of one or two of the remaining 11 plays in the festival, some by regional playwrights.

Altogether, Snider received 50 plays for consideration during an open submission process last summer.

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"I chose 12 plays that I thought were very diverse in their content, form, and story," Snider said.

"Winter Carnival" is designed, Snider said, not only to continue the aforementioned "vibrant conversation," but to "throw open the doors and invite artists — not only playwrights but also directors, designers, actors — to come play for a month as we develop these new works."

With the first of "Winter Carnival's" three weekends in the books, Snider says it's still a bit early to tell whether the event will become annual.

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"With the response from students and the artists do far," Snider said, "it seems to have sparked new energy and created new ways for everyone to participate in the process."

Irrespective of whether it becomes an regular component of a revitalized Hubbard Hall, Snider said "Winter Carnival" fits in perfectly with his vision of Hubbard Hall as a place where artists can spend time in residence — a week, a month, several months — "while they develop and incubate their work and then go into the world and share a bit of Hubbard Hall with the world.

"Ultimately," Snider said, "I'd like us to be another destination spot for artists — like Sundance or Williamstown or the O'Neill Center — where (theater) artists know they can find support and care for their work."

Contact Jeffrey Borak at (413) 496-6212


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