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story.lead_photo.caption TheatreSquared’s Arkansas New Play Fest will go on, despite the global pandemic. By tuning in to the streamed performances, audience members will be the first to see a host of new works. (Courtesy Photo)

Take that, covid-19!

Fayetteville's TheatreSquared has decided that, as far as their Arkansas New Play Fest is concerned, the show must go on. A reading of playwright Clinnesha D. Sibley's "Love Be Like..." will stream tonight at 7 o'clock, with a post-show discussion to follow. The reading is free, with a suggested donation, and can be accessed at playarkansas.com.

A press release from the organization says that the reading has been in virtual rehearsal since June 15.

"It's amazing how we were able to find a story and build community virtually," says Sibley. The show is directed by Denise Chapman with dramaturgical support from Naysan Mojgani. "This was meaningful, innovative, and brave collaborative work that I needed in my life as a writer/creative."

"It's actually been incredible to have this kind of artistic collaboration take place entirely digitally," says T2 Artistic Director Robert Ford. "While it will never fully replace an in-person workshop or performance, the energy was still remarkable and led to meaningful development on this brilliant and deeply relevant play."

A description of Sibley's play indicates that it take place in 2015, when "the world is falling, hate crimes are increasing, and everyone's questioning religion; but when nine churchgoers are targeted and murdered in a mass shooting during a prayer service in Charleston, S.C., a traumatized African-American couple are forced to reckon with faith, fear and forgiveness in the digital age."

Additional titles planned for the Play Fest -- now in its 12th year -- include "Weightless" by the Kilbanes, directed by Tamilla Woodard; "The Interrogator" by Russell Leigh Sharman; and "Heroes and Monsters" by the LatinX Theatre Project.

"For our 12th annual festival in 2020, we're moving to a 'rolling' new play development model, with additional intensive workshops and readings scheduled throughout the summer and fall," says T2 Executive Director Martin Miller.

The Arkansas New Play Fest first debuted in 2009, intended to offer playwrights an opportunity to workshop new work as well as see it read -- for the first time -- in front of a live audience. T2 says that each play is "intensively developed by teams including the playwright, director, dramaturg and a professional cast."

"The New Play Fest offers this really unique opportunity to rehearse with actors for several days, put it up in front of an audience and see what's working (and what's not)," says Sharman, whose play "The Interrogator" will be featured this year. "Then you get another several days of rehearsal and another performance, to try things out, experiment, refine, explore. For two weeks you're writing and re-writing furiously, giving the actors new pages on a daily basis, even when you thought there was nothing left to say. It's really two weeks of intensive development, constant feedback and audience engagement. And it's absolutely thrilling."

More than 60 new plays have been developed at TheatreSquared since the festival's inception.

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FAQ

‘Love Be Like…’

By Clinnesha D. Sibley

WHEN — 7 p.m. today

WHERE — playarkansas.com

COST — Free, with a suggested donation

INFO — playarkansas.com

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