INTERLOCHEN — Raw talent is on the menu Saturday at the Interlochen Center for the Arts Harvey Theatre, where the audience will be treated to several snippets of unfinished work from several up-and-coming writers.
Interlochen students, faculty and alumni will join Traverse City's Parallel 45 Theatre to present works-in-progress from four MITTEN Lab artists-in-residence.
Writers include playwright Eric Grant, of Michigan and Chicago; poet and playwright Liz Morgan, of New York; and the writing team of composer and writer Melissa Li and playwright and lyricist Kit Yan, also of New York.
"If you want to see what's up-and-coming in the world of theater without leaving your back yard ... come to this," said Kit McKay, artistic director of Parallel 45.
Interlochen has some talented students and some "amazing" singers who will perform alongside Parallel 45 actors, said McKay, who will direct a piece by Grant.
The MITTEN (Michigan Incubator for Theatre Talent Emerging Now) Lab is a place where artists who are early in their careers are given the space and time to develop and showcase new works during a week-long artist-in-residency program.
The residency takes place at a Bear Lake home on 60 acres that is donated for a week out of the year.
The scenes being presented at Interlochen, in fact, were written in Bear Lake this week. They'll be performed "book-in-hand," meaning the actors will not have to memorize their lines. Their performances will even be absent stage sets and costumes, said Katherine M. Carter, co-founder of the nonprofit MITTEN Lab.
Scripts are given out the night before the performance and actors get four hours to rehearse, she said.
"It's great because it's a little sample of their work," Carter said, adding that the presentation offers a sneak peek into the creative process.
Co-founder Rachel Sussman agrees.
"For us to be showing these works that are so early in the process and to share that work with the community is really rare," Sussman said.
Carter and Sussman founded the MITTEN Lab in 2016 as a way to feed the theater pipeline in Michigan. Both were working in theater in the Detroit area at the time. They now live in New York, where Carter is a director and Sussman is a producer.
Several of the works created in the lab in the last couple of years have already moved to the big theaters.
"It really is to us an incubator and we're showcasing these up-and-coming artists with the local community," Sussman said.
Artists come to the program with an idea they'd like to develop or with a project in its final stages. Expenses like housing, food, travel and studio space are provided for the writers, who will also spend time seeing the sights.
"It's our opportunity to introduce these wonderful artists to the Traverse City region and to introduce the artist to Traverse City," Carter said.
Carter and Sussman have known each other since they were young and both spent summers in the area as children, visiting the dunes, eating lots of cherries and playing putt putt golf in Suttons Bay.
When they were designing the residency program they wanted to share northwest Michigan with the artists. That the area also boasts one of the premier arts schools in the country is a bonus.
"It just happened to be in the back yard of our MITTEN Lab," Sussman said.
This is the first year the lab has taken open submissions, which garnered more than 50 applicants. A committee reads through the applications and makes recommendations, with Carter and Sussman interviewing seven of those.
"This year there was an incredible pool," Carter said. "It was really exciting to see the breadth of work."
The Interlochen event is free and begins at 7:30 p.m. at Harvey Theatre.