Students Show the Way in ‘Festival of New Plays’

Directors, playwrights, designers, actors gain invaluable experience

26 February, 2014 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio — A handful of theatre students at The College of Wooster are living the dream as they prepare for the opening of "Festival of New Plays," three one-act plays written, directed, designed, and performed exclusively by students.

The biennial production puts students in the playwright's den, the director's chair, the designer's shop, and just about everywhere else in the theatre as they apply what they learned in the classroom to the production of original plays on stage.

"It gives a lot of insight into entire process," says Warner Brownfield, a sophomore English major and theatre minor from Louisville, Ky., whose play "The Infallible Gods" will premiere this weekend (Feb. 27-Mar. 1) in Shoolroy Theatre. "Putting on a play and seeing how others interpret your work is eye opening. As a playwright, it forces you to step back, let go of your writing, and understand that you are not able to control everything."

Janna Haywood, a senior theatre and dance major from Covington, Ga., has done some play writing of her own, but this weekend she will be directing Brownfield's play. "This process is so valuable because it is so rare," she says. "To have an opportunity to explore a text with a playwright is both interesting and exciting. Directing is my passion; it's where I want to go, and to have a chance like this to work on script development really prepares one to work with a script that someone else has written."

For Amanda O'Donnell, a senior English and theatre double major from Bedford, Mass., the experience has provided critical insight about the importance of collaboration in theatre. "A director's primary job is not to tell people what to do, but to help all of the artists who create the play (playwright, actors, and designers) to come together as a unified whole, something I didn't fully understand until directing this show," she says. "I would love the chance to direct in the future. I love storytelling, and theatre is a great avenue for it."

Aviva Neff, a senior history major and theatre minor from Ypsilanti, Mich., is also excited about the experience and how it will prepare her professionally. "I'm hoping to pursue a professional acting career," she says. "I am going to London for a master's program in applied theatre in the fall, so this year has been dedicated to learning to direct. This is my first full-length show. I have really learned the work-shopping process. It has been very interesting to see how playwrights, directors, designers, and actors work together on a new play. Professor Noriega has provided great support, while encouraging us to figure out what needs to be done on our own."

Andrea Luedtke, a senior English major and theatre minor from Portland, Ore., believes that the opportunity to engage the role of playwright is valuable because she hopes to work with playwrights in the future. "To be the best director, you should experience as many roles as possible in the theatre," she says. "With this particular festival, I wanted to better understand how to effectively work with a playwright and how to work on the other side of the creative process. With this festival, I learned what works and what doesn't, and now I understand how to be a better director. Because of this I am very grateful. I know that when I get the opportunity to direct again, I will bring these new learned skills to that experience. And I honestly cannot wait."