As an artist, any chance to present your work is a welcome one. The New Student Play Festival, which premiered Dec. 11, was the perfect opportunity for theatrical artists of all kinds to do so.
The event, which had both a matinee at 2 p.m. and an evening performance at 7:30 p.m., was truly one of a kind. With over 15 performances, the festival ran for a little over two hours, each moment spent entertaining and engaging the audience.
An extra round of applause must be given to artistic directors Erwin Guerrero, Mikaela Koran, Lana Kurimoto and Emilia Siracusa, all of whom are senior theatre studies majors, as well as Gwen Streitman, a sophomore theatre studies major.
As one entered the lobby for Studio 1200, you were immediately engaged with interactive, thought-provoking exhibits, several of which involved asking the audience members their thoughts on contentious subjects like sexuality, gender, sexual assault, rape, personal relationships and intimacy. These were an excellent way to engage and prepare the audience for several theatrical performances containing these exact themes. It was clear that all those involved had a passion for these subjects, and that passion showed even before performances began.
There was rarely a time when the audience was not completely immersed within the performance, as there was laughing, applauding, booing, screaming and even crying at some points. Several audience members even reacted to performances with well-placed exclamations.
The standout piece that garnered the most attention from the audience was “The Way Boys Treat Me” by Zoe LeRose, a junior theatre studies major. Centering around a young woman’s dating history, the piece was hilarious and poignant.
Actress Haley Amann, a junior acting major, had audience members on their feet, getting some of them to yell “Girl, no!” when she would highlight another red flag in a man that shows interest in her. LeRose’s writing talent is undeniable and Amann’s acting is done to perfection.
Tribute must also be paid to the notable design put into the festival, consisting of excellent sound, lighting and makeup. As an avid theatrical consumer, design is something I’ve grown accustomed to. Rarely do I find myself or others excited about design aspects of production, but this festival broke the mold for me and many others.
The lighting was nothing less than exemplary. Imitating sunsets, neon glows and even science fiction effects were all accomplished brilliantly. The sound was engaging and fervently creative. The music in between pieces set the tone immediately. The projection was also something to celebrate.
This was especially evident within the piece “INFINITE” by junior film major Tanasia Davis-Ramsey, which was a literary, direction and design triumph. The design of the piece, done with a huge projection showing the best and worst of humanity, was amazing. Stunning visuals filled the stage.
Performers Emery Myers, a junior theatre studies major, and Tatum Thompson, a junior business major, were another standout in all creative categories, displaying sheer mastery of their craft. Their chemistry and command of an audience were a wonder to watch. Audience members were speaking about the piece in the lobby even after the festival had ended.
The production of the festival itself was also marvelous. Amann was sure to praise it.
“The very beginning was New Play development, so from [the start] there was this super helpful feedback from other people,” Amann said. “It was extremely helpful from the start. Kaitlin Stilwell is an amazing professor, and she worked so hard to put this together.”
Aside from acting, Amann also had a fantastic piece within the festival titled “Bearing Child.” The piece dealt with the consequences and perspectives of motherhood through an accessible lens. A man and woman are on a date where they discuss the topic of having children.
Amann wanted to take an educational, heartfelt approach to the topic of motherhood in her work.
“What I really wanted to emphasize is that being a mother and having children is not the narrative for a female-identifying person,” Amann said. “That includes women with health issues, financial hardships and trans women.”
Another piece within the festival that benefited from a great production process was “God’s Image,” which looked into the extreme anxiety that comes with simply existing in today’s world.
Its author, Nina DiNorscio, a freshman acting major, was involved with production from the start.
“I had the advantage of being a part of the casting process from the beginning,” DiNorscio said. “My good friend [actress Sydney Coleman] got cast in something that I wrote. Then, I was able to alter the piece to fit her style.”
Coleman, a freshman acting major, is a triple threat performer. Her acting was impeccable, but her movement and character choices solidified the performance.
“The piece was so freeing,” Coleman said. “Especially because we got to change it to how I felt, and we got to change it to something that made more sense for me personally. It felt so good to get those feelings out since we are usually so scared to talk about them.”
One audience member, Gina Spagnuolo, a junior English major, expressed her feelings about the performances.
“I thought some of the pieces were very good,” Spagnuolo said. “Some were a bit fake deep, but most were very powerful.”
The festival is all in all something that deserves to be performed every year, if not every semester. It was a beautiful experience for all involved and deserves every bit of praise it gets. If the theatre program knew what was good for them, they would make this event a staple of its lineup.