Categorized | Arts & Entertainment

Festival of new plays features student talent

Wyatt Smith

Staff Writer

Over the next two weekends the Department of Theatre and Dance will host the Festival of New Plays, a series of theatrical productions highlighting the talent and creativity of Wooster students. This is the first festival that allows for a more formal presentation of student work than previously attempted.

The Festival of New Plays will feature six short plays written, directed and performed primarily by Wooster students. Three plays will be presented Feb. 23-25, with the other three on the following weekend, March 1-3. In addition, “Las Meninas,” a play by Mexican playwright Ernesto Anaya, will have its international debut at the festival and will be performed both weekends.

The performances will provide theatre students the opportunity to apply skills they’ve learned in a wide variety of theatre classes. For example, the scripts for the six short plays all originated in a playwriting class taught by Associate Professor Shirley Huston-Findley who also had the idea for the festival. She stated that the festival came out of a desire “to give students an opportunity to have one of their pieces brought to life.”

Huston-Findley also discussed how putting together a play is often a difficult process, and that it is good for students to have the experience of being wholly in charge of putting on a production. The Festival of New Plays relies on the work of many students performing a variety of roles. Some students are even participating in multiple plays, such as Chelsea Gillespie ’14, who is designing the lighting for all three plays presented in the first weekend as well as acting in a play the second weekend.

Huston-Findley identified two important underlying principles that drove her decision to create the Festival of New Plays. First, she commented on how “Wooster is known for its strong writing curriculum, so it’s natural to highlight the playwriting in our department [of Theatre and Dance].” Huston-Findley also cited the College’s mission statement, which highlights the importance of moving from theory to practice. She said that “this [festival] does just that.”

It is Huston-Findley’s hope that the festival will become a semiannual event, giving future generations of Wooster students the same opportunity to showcase their work. Ideally, she would want future festivals to include new plays from the community and other colleges, turning it into a regional event.

Both weekends, the student-written productions will be followed by the play “Las Meninas,” or “The Maids of Honor,” written by Ernesto Anaya and translated by award-winning playwright Migdalia Cruz. The presentation of the piece will be similar to most theatre department productions in that the script is the only aspect of the performance not created by Wooster students and faculty. “Las Meninas” will be directed by Jimmy A. Noriega, an assistant professor of theatre.

Of all the students who have been involved in the production of “Las Meninas,” Bronwyn Shlaefer ’12’s  role deserves to be highlighted. Shlaefer created the scenic design for the play as part of her Senior Independent Study and even traveled to Spain to study “Las Meninas.”

Cruz, a respected playwright from New York City, will be giving a lecture on Feb. 29 in Freedlander Theater at 7 p.m. about her life and works as a supplement to the festival.

Audiences should be aware that the performances contain adult content and language.


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