Festival of New Plays

Behind the scenes, student directors and playwrights (clockwise from top left) Janna Haywood, Aviva Neff, Amanda O'Donnell, Andrea Luedtke, and Warner Brownfield take a break from their preparation for this weekend's Festival of New Plays at The College of Wooster's Shoolroy Theatre.


Original Works Debut in College of Wooster’s Festival of New Plays

Three one-act plays written by students to premiere this weekend in Shoolroy Theatre

26 February, 2014 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio — Aspiring playwrights, directors, designers, and actors will showcase their talents when The College of Wooster's Department of Theatre and Dance presents "Festival of New Plays," Feb. 27-Mar. 1 in Shoolroy Theatre (329 E. University St.). Three one-act plays, written and directed by Wooster students, will be presented at 8:15 p.m. each evening. Tickets are $9 for general admission and $6 for senior citizens, faculty, staff, and non-Wooster students.

"The Festival is a way to connect what we teach in the classroom with what we do on the stage," said Jimmy Noriega, assistant professor of theatre and dance at Wooster and supervising director of the upcoming production. "It is exciting to watch the students work creatively and collaboratively while learning what it means to be an artist."

In order to be selected as a director or playwright, students had to have completed Noriega's directing class and Professor of Theatre and Dance Shirley Huston-Findley's playwriting class. Designers are currently enrolled in Professor of Theatre and Dance Dale Seeds' design class. "It is a very competitive process," said Noriega. "Dale, Shirley, and I vetted the scripts and then allowed the directors to choose their plays. This year, we had 15 submissions."

The directors were chosen on the basis of their performance on the final exam in Noriega's directing class, in which they directed a short piece in front of an audience that included Noriega, Huston-Findley, and Seeds last semester. "We watched their work closely and then decided whether they were ready [to direct]," said Noriega. "Those who were chosen began working over [winter] break and really hit the ground running when we returned."

In an effort to further nurture the development of the young playwrights, guest playwright Kevin McFillen, a 2003 Wooster graduate, was brought in to provide guidance on the script development. In addition, dramaturg Ilana Brownstein, a 1998 Wooster graduate, will serve as a respondent to the festival and provide feedback after the plays are performed.

"It has been great to work with the students and see them take responsibility for their shows and grow as artists," said Noriega. "Our goal is to teach lessons in a structured learning environment and then let the students take charge and see how what we taught translates into the theatrical world."

Noriega and his fellow faculty members will find out this weekend when the three plays take the stage, beginning with "The Train Station," which was written by senior English major and theatre minor Andrea Luedtke and will be directed by senior English and theatre double major Amanda O'Donnell. It is a non-romantic love story about the relationship between a mother and son that considers the sacrifices one would make for those they love, and the sacrifices others have made for them. The play is set in a magical train station and focuses on questions about what makes life worth living and what gives life its value and significance. The play will highlight the talents of senior Kent Sprague, who will have a role in set, lighting, and costume design. He will be joined by fellow set designers Paige Madden and Audrey Platt, a senior and junior, respectively, and fellow costume designer Stephanie Castrejon, a sophomore. The cast will be made up of sophomore Mickey Osthimer and juniors Eliza Somsel and Erika Daun.

The second play, "The Infallible Gods," was written by sophomore English major and theatre minor Warner Brownfield and will be directed by senior theatre and dance major Janna Haywood. Influenced by Beckett's "Play," and Ives' "It's All in the Timing," "The Infallible Gods" is a piece that follows the tradition of the absurd, exploring the mind and its perception of human interconnectivity. "Writing this play had a lot to do with trying to look inside and make whatever is part of the fundamentally human experience come out for the audience to experience in a new way," said Brownfield. "All I hope is that [the audience] finds a piece of [themselves] in it.  The play will showcase the talents of junior Sidney Martin, who will be responsible for lighting design and set design, as well as sophomore Zoe Madden, who will oversee costume design, and seniors Kaleigh Richards and Phu Nguyen Thien, who will assist with set design. The cast will consist of first-year Scott Wagner and seniors Raphael Gunn and Alex Dereix.

The third play, titled "This is What Makes Us Girls," was written by senior theatre and dance major Janna Haywood and will be directed by senior history major/theatre minor Aviva Neff. The play is a drama about a 13-year old girl who lives with her mother in an unstable environment and struggles to find her independence and maturity through her sketchy relationship with a 21-year old neighbor. It features set designers Chelsea Gillespie and Seung Ryong Riew, both seniors, and James Lorenzin, a sophomore, along with costume designer Nora Yawitz, a junior. Gillespie will also serve as the lighting designer. The three main characters will be played by senior Kathy Arnold, junior Colin Martin, and first-year Savanah White.

"I have been very impressed by the students from the very beginning," said Noriega. "I am thrilled with the ways they have progressed and grown, and I am really looking forward to seeing their works come alive on stage."

Additional information is available by phone (330-263-2541) or e-mail.