By Dawn M. Chiossi
Livingston’s Kush Dhungana has been name the youngest Theater Festival Director for the New York Theater Festival.
The NY Theater Festival was founded in 2012 and focuses on local playwrights offering an amazing opportunity to stage their works and a chance to win cash prizes.
It is said that theater is like a fever in the blood and that creativity is a whirlwind that follows no time clock. Such is the case with Livingston’s 17 year old Dhungana. Since writing his recent off Broadway play “Rooftop” for the Annual Midtown International Theater Festival last summer, this talented teen playwright has been doing so much to set the creative world on fire. This time, Dhungana has effortlessly slipped into the role of director.
At this year’s New York Theater Festival, Dhungana was honored to have his play “A Poor Player” performed at the Hudson Guild Theater in New York on Jan. 11, 12, and 14. The play explores the life of a struggling actress who grapples with professional and personal conflicts, and Dhungana shares that he came up with the idea of submitting his script to the New York Theater Festival when someone who saw his previous play “Rooftop,” suggested it to him.
“I wasn’t sure about producing another off Broadway show, but what drew me to this festival was that it provided a much bigger venue and more creative freedom,” he says. “Because there were more resources provided at this festival, I wanted to make a bigger, grander show.”
When asked how he became interested in directing, Dhungana discloses, “Whenever I write stories, I usually have a clear vision as to how they should be executed. So when my script was selected (by the festival), I sent them an entire set of notes describing what I would do as director, including specific stage directions, casting decisions, and lighting cues. They were impressed enough to choose me as director for the show.”
Directors are often considered visionaries, collaborating with every part of the production, orchestrating it, making sure it all goes smoothly. Dhungana is both enthusiastic and realistic regarding this hands-on position.
“I love directing, but it’s very hard especially for a theater show,” he says. “You are preparing for a live show and can’t afford to make any mistakes.”
So what was the response like to having a 17 year old director at the helm? Despite his initial nerves, Dhungana has nothing but good things to say about that.
“My actors were amazing, extremely professional, not at all weirded out by the fact that they were all older than me,” he says. “I have been extremely lucky to work with such great actors.”
He credits his interpersonal style of directing as an asset to his production.
“One specific thing I do as director is to really make sure that my actors are comfortable with the script, the lines,” he says. “You can tell when an actor is forcing a reaction or a line so we’ll improv in between scenes or try different versions of the same scene to get them comfortable, in rhythm. I have a very vocal relationship with my actors to the point that we’re not afraid to voice any opinions we have. I think that made the play feel so real, so fluid.”
The response for his play has been overwhelmingly positive. “It has been great,” says Dhungana. From family and friends to online reviews from the Time Square Chronicles, Dhungana’s play was a standout.
“I am extremely honored for being named the youngest director in the New York Theater Festival history,” he says. “I really just aimed to craft a great show. So to earn this achievement in the process is really unexpected. It means a lot to me.”
Other creative projects of Dhungana’s include writing and directing a film, recording music for an upcoming mixtape, and creating and organizing a brand new statewide film festival called NJ Visionaries Film Festival, showcasing New Jersey’s talented young artists.
Additionally, Dhungana has been awarded the Scholastic Gold Medal and a $10,000 scholarship from one of the nation’s most prestigious largest writing competitions, The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.
“I really hope to just keep creating projects that are important to me, and find ways to connect with larger and larger audiences,” he says. “As long as I am doing the things I love, things will fall into place.”