Independent Minds, Working Together

Festival of New Plays to Showcase Student Talents and an International Premiere at The College of Wooster

Original works to be performed Feb. 23-25 and Mar. 1-3 in Freedlander and Shoolroy Theatres

February 15, 2012 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio — Student playwrights, performers, directors, and designers will showcase their talents when The College of Wooster’s Department of Theatre and Dance presents “A Festival of New Plays” Feb. 23-25 and March 1-3. The performances, which begin each evening at 8:15 p.m. in Freedlander Theatre (329 E. University St.), feature a series of original student works consisting of 10-minute and one-act plays that address such topics as race, sexuality, and dementia. After the student-written productions, patrons will be invited to file across the hall to Shoolroy Theatre where Jimmy A. Noriega, assistant professor of theatre and dance at Wooster, will direct the U.S. premier of “Las Meninas” (The Maids of Honour).

“We’ve never done anything like this before, but we thought it would be an excellent opportunity for our students to move from the classroom to the laboratory,” said Shirley Huston-Findley, associate professor of theatre and dance. “Most of the pieces emerged from our playwriting class. The directors come from Jimmy’s class, and the designers have taken classes or worked in the shop with Dale Seeds, Charlene Gross, or Jody Tidwell.”

The productions will be presented over six nights. The opening weekend (Feb. 23, 24, and 25) will spotlight the first three pieces, beginning with “Your Lawfully Wedded Wife,” a play written by senior Jadon Baker and directed by sophomore Janna Haywood that puts the brakes on a young woman's wedding day when her best friend learns an important secret about the groom. The second production is “Circles,” a story written by junior Kate Donnelly and directed by sophomore Gareth McNamara that focuses on a father and his relationship with his daughter following her coming out. The third play that weekend is “Memory Morrow,” junior Cary Fado’s poignant look at the complex relationship between the ailing Thornborn and his caretaker daughter, Ellen. Senior Valerie Mozena directs the production, which incorporates several flashbacks to explore and illuminate the shared — though sometimes disconnected — memories of father and daughter.

On the second weekend (Mar. 1, 2, and 3), the night opens with junior Jasmine Verreen’s “School for Colored Girls.” Directed by Shirley Huston-Findley, the play boldly examines the role of color and race through the setting of an academy designed to teach women how to be ‘black’. Next is junior Amanda Wagner’s “Tits,” a one-woman show that emerged out of the Devised Performance class. Also directed by Huston-Findley, it explores the relationship between a woman and her breasts. After that, junior Hannah Rothman’s “Another Story” will take the stage. Directed by sophomore Andrea Luedtke, the play illustrates the importance of books and stories in people’s lives, and addresses friendship, specifically how one person can change another’s life for the better, even if the encounter is very short.

“Wooster takes pride in its strong writing curriculum, and one way in which our department contributes is through the art of playwriting, but it is also an opportunity for students to be able to go from writing to production,” said Huston-Findley. “These plays will give them the opportunity to convert theory into practice — a staple of the college’s overall mission.”

Following the student-written works, the department will present the international premiere of the English script of “Las Meninas” each night. Written by Mexican playwright Ernesto Anaya and translated by Migdalia Cruz, “Las Meninas” is based on the famous 1656 painting by Spanish artist Diego Velázquez, in which the painter, his subjects, and the Royal Spanish Court mingle and collide against the backdrop of the Spanish Inquisition. Questions of power, race, religion, artistry, gender, and sexuality play out in a comic and surprising series of events, ultimately leading to the creation of the Spanish masterpiece. The play was the winner of the 2006 Mexican Oscar Liera National Award for Drama.

Cruz, a world-renowned Latina playwright, will visit campus on Wednesday, Feb. 29, to present a free public lecture at 7 p.m. in Freedlander Theatre. She will reflect on her career and her works, which have been produced across the U.S. and abroad. She is the author of more than 50 plays, operas, screenplays, translations, and musicals, and has taught playwriting at the University of Iowa, Princeton, Amherst, and NYU. In addition, she has received numerous honors and awards, including the Kennedy Center’s Fund for New American Plays award for “Another Part Of The House,” and a 2005 Massachusetts Cultural Council grant. Cruz received her MFA from Columbia University and is an alumna of New Dramatists, one of the nation’s top playwright centers, located in New York City.

Tickets are on sale at the Freedlander Box Office Monday through Friday from 12-2 and 4-6 p.m. Additional information about “A Festival of New Plays” is available by phone (330-263-2241) or e-mail. NOTE: These performances contain adult language and content and are intended for mature audiences only.