Thursday, January 11, 2001 

 Now you see it 
 The Norfolk Southern Festival of New Works opens Tuesday at Mill
 Mountain Theatre

 The Roanoke Times 

 This year's Norfolk Southern Festival of New Works, which begins Tuesday, is as meaty as any in memory. There will be three full productions of new plays and one on-stage reading. 

All of the plays in the festival will be performed at Theatre B, Mill Mountain's alternative theater, reached through the Church Avenue side of Center in the Square. 

The festival opens Tuesday with "Tesla's Letters," a play about Yugoslavia that should generate local interest, as it was penned by 1985 William Byrd High School graduate Jeffrey Stanley. 

The play already has been performed off Broadway and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. Stanley now lives in New York, though he is in Roanoke for the festival and has attended rehearsals of his play. 

Having a play staged at Mill Mountain is a thrill, Stanley said, both because it allows him to spend time with his family here and because Mill Mountain represented the big time for him when he was growing up. Stanley even submitted plays to Mill Mountain while he was a student, but "Tesla" is the first to be accepted. 

"It's great that they've chosen my play," said Stanley, who teaches playwriting and screenwriting at New York University. "It's sort of funny to think I had to go to New York to get noticed." 

"Tesla's Letters" is set in war-torn Yugoslavia. It follows an American college student as she attempts to uncover the story of Croatian-born inventor Nikola Tesla, who once dreamed of creating a weapon of mass destruction. Tesla died in 1943. The play grew out of Stanley's own fascination with the real-life inventor, which led him to pay a 1997 visit to Serbia and Croatia. 

Jere Hodgin, the theater's executive director, became intrigued by Stanley's work after reading an article about him in The Roanoke Times. He said Stanley is a writer with a conscience. "The issues brought out in the play need to be heard," Hodgin said. 

The theater also considered staging a newer play by Stanley, "UFOs Over Brooklyn," but the playwright felt "Tesla's Letters" was the more polished work. 

Hodgin said the festival's goal is to give talented emerging writers a voice. "We're not looking for the perfect thing," he said. 

He said the festival has a good track record for picking writers who go on to become successful playwrights. 

"There's a long history of plays doing well. More importantly, the playwrights have done well. The playwrights that we've showcased in the festival have gone on to have subsequent productions all around the country. So we feel like we're providing the right kind of nurturing and environment. That's kind of a cornerstone of the festival." 

All content herein is © 2001 Times-World Corp. and may not be republished without permission. 

The Roanoke Times Online is a service of The Roanoke Times.

The Roanoke Times archives are stored on a SAVE (tm) newspaper library system from MediaStream, Inc., a Knight-Ridder Inc. company.