The Northern Arizona Playwriting Showcase Ecosystem by Katie McGee

The Northern Arizona Playwriting Showcase, affectionately known as NAPS, kicked off its 12th year at Theatrikos Playhouse in Flagstaff this September. Ever since Ann Cummins, a creative writing professor at NAU, founded NAPS, the playwriting contest has enjoyed a strong connection with the university’s MFA program. This year more MFA students, alumni, and faculty participated in NAPS than ever before. Jane Armstrong, retired professor and full-time writer living in France, wrote one of the winning plays, “Domestic Security.” Warren Doody, graduate of the MA program, 95’ wrote another winning play, “Pandora’s Box.” Through a blind submission process, including over fifty plays, these authors’ works were chosen to be performed in the showcase.

Lawrence Lenhart, Associate Chair of the English Department, served again as co-producer and lights and sound manager for the show. This year, Ann Cummins enjoyed a new role, directing for the first time. The showcase also featured emerging actors and current MFA candidates Jeff Shultz, Ryan Drendel, Cymelle Edwards, and myself.

I was selected to perform in Doody’s “Pandora’s Box,” which was directed by Cummins and Virginia Brown. I hadn’t acted since high school, but with a great script and a top- notch team of directors, I was able to come a long way in a few rehearsals. By opening night, I felt ready to bring the audience to their feet. I had forgotten that feeling of waiting backstage, the nerves, the energy. It was great fun. The directors’ encouragement and audience response reignited the flame for a lost love. I didn’t know there was opportunity to participate in Theatrikos productions unless you were a seasoned veteran. After NAPS I have the courage to try-out for a main stage production.

When asked what made NAPS so unique, Doody characterized the event with three words: Economy, Community and Opportunity. “ECO,” he quipped, “an applicable acronym: short for ecology, referring to the relationship between organisms (theater performers) and their environment or habitat (the Flagstaff stage).”

What makes NAPS Economical? 

NAPS is a streamlined version of a typical main stage production. After a one-night audition, actors typically will find out the next day or two whether they have been cast. After three rehearsals and a dress rehearsal, actors perform the three shows over one weekend.

How does NAPS foster Community? 

A layperson can gain entry into the Flagstaff theatrical world, working with experienced producers, directors, and techs in front of a paying audience. Actor Ryan Drendel, who was also cast in this year’s showcase said, “NAPS was a fun way to peek into the world of theatre and screenwriting. Having no prior acting experience, performing in two NAPS plays provided many opportunities to grow—not only as an actor, but also a writer, reader, and orator. I was super impressed by the screenwriting talent NAPS attracts to Flagstaff.”

What are some of Opportunities NAPS provides? 

There are many avenues into participation in NAPS. Doody is a prime example; in addition to being a winner of the playwriting contest this year, he has served as a judge, director, and actor in pervious productions. NAPS welcomes volunteers to help out with the production, so it’s possible to be a part of the showcase regardless of experience. People from all walks of life have forged friendships and connections through NAPS.

If you would like to participate next year, check out the website. The playwriting contest submission deadline is usually July 1, and there are other ways you can become involved as an actor, director or working in production.