What started as a CFAC student’s writing assignment for a playwriting class is becoming a publication of Samuel French, Inc., one of the most distinguished play-publishing companies in the U.S.
Ariel Mitchell, a recent TMA graduate, received the 2013 Harold and Mimi Steinberg National Student Playwriting Award at the National Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. While a 10-minute selection of her play was being read by equity actors in a Millennium Stage reading, representatives of Samuel French liked what they heard and decided to publish her play, A Second Birth, on June 18.
“It is unreal. I still don’t believe it’s happening,” Mitchell said. “I’ve been incredibly blessed to have this opportunity so early in my life.”
A Second Birth shares the struggles of a poor Afghani girl named Nasima, who is raised a boy to improve the family’s social and economic standing in their community. Nasima wrestles with past relationships and future traditions on her way to self-discovery. Through her strife the play tackles important contemporary issues.
“I hope that through publication the play will be able to go on and reach many other people and encourage conversations about gender, love, family and friendship in their communities,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell recently finished her first year at the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing program in the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. For the second and final year of her program Mitchell will work with a partner to write a 90-minute musical, her master’s thesis. She and her collaborator are writing a musical comedy about a girl raised by a Mormon father and a Jewish mother who has to choose what she believes without alienating her parents or relatives. As a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mitchell finds inspiration for her plays wherever she can.
“I’ve always been happier to listen than talk and be heard,” Mitchell shared. “I joke with my friends and family and say they should sign a waiver before getting too close to me, because somehow their lives are going to end up on stage.”
Mitchell noted that the success of A Second Birth would not be possible without the training and education she received while in the TMA program.
“I am most grateful for the professors who work so hard to pull the best out of their students, work with the Spirit and teach and encourage each individual’s process, goals and stories,” Mitchell said. “It gave me assurance that I am a talented theatrical artist and that I can create good work while still keeping and bearing testimony.”
The success of A Second Birth may have come as a surprise to Mitchell, but the experience has strengthened her personal faith.
“I never expected it to be published. All I can say is if you work hard, God opens doors,” Mitchell said.