Student playwrights stage New Works Festival

Dec 2, 2013

Nine students in Professor Chris Tucci’s theatre directing class are about to see a semester’s worth of work – including pouring their souls and emotions onto the stage – culminate next week with the New Works Festival.

Each of the students wrote a 10-minute play that will be performed as part of the festival, which occurs on the Gundlach Theatre stage every other year. The students address such topics as suicide, depression, relationships, family ties, even history and politics.

“As a class, they are responsible for providing everything that requires the shows to happen,” explained Tucci. This means not only writing, but casting, directing and overseeing technical aspects of their shows.

New Play Festival ClassThe students based their plays on historical events as well as real-life experiences. “If you have the passion to write about it, you just take it from there,” said junior Corey Zech, whose play, “Dream Sequence,” is one of the nine plays that will be performed.

“My story came to me as we progressed through the class,” said senior Sarah Bolen, author of “Autumn Leaves.” “I just took my inspiration from the world around me.” She admits to being a bit anxious about audience reaction. “I’m nervous about whether people will like it. These are my personal ideas and thoughts. This is my first attempt (at writing a play), and first attempts are always scary.”

Freshman Courtney DeGroat had an additional motivation for writing her play, “;Misunderstood;” She wants to promote suicide prevention and rape awareness. Initially, she struggled with “getting the cast to understand the severity of the issue.” But they finally came around, she said.

DeGroat said she understands her topic may be risky and not easy to watch. “Either people will like it or they won’t, but it’s a message that I think people need to be aware of.”

Other works and their authors are as follows:

  • “2113” by senior T.J. Wasserman
  • “Awaken, Thee” by freshman Justin Varney
  • “The Interview” by sophomore Marina Richley
  • “Picked Up” by junior Makenzie Dietrich
  • “Stay Away from My Friends” by senior Calista Hall
  • “Inspiration” by sophomore Dwyane Redrick

For his part, Tucci said he’ll be looking to see if the playwrights carried the material learned in the first half of the class into the finished productions. This year’s plays represent a broader spectrum of topics and styles, he said.

“There is a nice variety of plays that is greater than it’s been in the past (when the class was composed primarily of theatre majors),” he said. “You’ll see a greater divergence in opinion and backgrounds than in past festivals.”

The New Works Festival will be staged at 8:30 p.m. next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (Dec. 2-4) in Gundlach Theatre. Subject matter may not be appropriate for all ages.