Festival of New Works Features Productions by Student Playwrights

Two one-act plays to be presented along with encore presentation of Women of Ciudad Juárez March 2-5

24 February, 2016 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio ­– A pair of original works by student playwrights will debut next week when The College of Wooster presents its biennial Festival of New Works, March 2-5 at 7:30 p.m., in Shoolroy Theatre (329 E. University St.). The two one-act plays will be followed by an encore presentation of Women of Ciudad Juárez across the hall in Freedlander Theatre at 8:45 p.m.

To celebrate Women’s History Month, ticket prices will reflect the current wage gap in Ohio, lowering prices for women to 78 percent of that for men, which are $9 for adults; $6 for senior citizens and non-college of Wooster students. All female students, who are already eligible a free ticket, will also receive a special surprise at the box office.

“The festival gives students an opportunity to take what they learn in the classroom and bring it to life on stage,” said Shirley Huston-Findley, professor of theatre at Wooster. “It’s a bridge of sorts, particularly for the playwrights and directors.”

Every other year, students from across campus are invited to submit plays for consideration in the festival, while students from Jimmy Noriega’s directing class are invited to apply for opportunities to guide a production at the festival. This year’s selections are Eli Millette’s Forgive Me Father, For I Have Sinned and Summit J. Starr’s Now She Lives Alone on Chester Avenue.

Millette’s story is about two brothers trying to reconcile after years of estrangement. “It’s a story of a broken family with one person trying to regain a relationship, and the other not so sure,” said Millette, a junior psychology major. “It’s about how people change and how they stay the same.”

Millette, who has been working on the script for about a year, said he has enjoyed watching the director (Tashi Hutchins) and the actors interpret his script. “It’s very cool to have a lot of different people looking at what I wrote,” he said. “Everyone brings their own perspective.”

Hutchins, a junior theatre major, was impressed with the script. “When I read it, I thought it was very different, almost surreal, but it also had a sense of hope,” she said. “I’ve read through it several times now, and it has really been a process of discovery for me. It gives you a new outlook on life and the world around you.”

Starring in the play are three sophomores: Jeremy Miller as Manny, George Marn as Brother, and Nikhil Patnaik as the Officer. The remainder of the crew includes junior scenic designer Shannan Burrows, senior lighting designer Emily Baird, first-year costume designer Hannah Smith, junior stage manager Lexie Musselman, and first-year assistant stage manager Laura Pratt.

Starr’s play is a one-woman show that focuses on an older woman who is consumed by her past and the conflict between the way things turned out and the way she wishes they had been. The inspiration for the atmosphere of the story came from her experiences at a home on Chester Avenue in Lordstown, Ohio, where she spent much of her childhood. “It was a place where I hung out with my brother and cousins,” she said. “Now it is a place that evokes bittersweet feelings, like a ‘nostalgic nightmare.’”

Starr, a senior theatre major, said her decision to craft the script came from her playwriting class, which led to her Junior Independent Study project (Wooster’s nationally acclaimed undergraduate research experience) that combines feminist theory and absurdist theory.

Vincent Meredith, a sophomore theatre major, will direct Starr’s play. He said he was attracted to the script because it made him feel extremely uncomfortable, but in a good way. “I really admire the script because it is so real,” he said. “It shows that it’s okay to become vulnerable and try to reconstruct your past.”

The one-woman play features junior Savanah White. The production crew consists of junior scenic designer Ji in Yoo, senior lighting designer and stage manager Abby Helvering, sophomore costume designer Maira Senoo, and senior assistant stage manager Yibing Li.

Women of Ciudad Juárez is a dramatic tribute to the hundreds of women who were raped, tortured, and murdered during the past two decades in the Mexican border city that lies south of El Paso, Texas. Written by Cristina Michaus, a famous Mexican film actress, documentary filmmaker, and playwright (who will be on campus to accompany next week’s one-hour performance), the production was translated into English by Noriega, assistant professor of theatre and dance at Wooster who also directed it.

 Noriega’s production is now in its third year of touring, and has been seen by more than 5,100 people in 15 venues. Starr and fellow senior Stephanie Castrejon, along with junior Marisa Adame and 2014 graduate Janna Haywood, have toured the production with Noriega to a variety of colleges/universities and professional theatres, including Yale, Ithaca, Bucknell, Davidson, Arizona State, Ohio Wesleyan, and Dartmouth, as well as the Pabst Theatre in Milwaukee. Just last week, the play represented the United States at the Royal International Theatre Festival in Liege, Belgium. Last year, the production was honored by the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival for “Making Theatre an Important Catalyst for Sociopolitical Change.”

Additional information about the Festival is available by calling the box office at 330-263-2241.