“It’s basically a student-run everything.” That’s how junior theatre arts major KatieLiz Robbins described the New Works Festival, an annual production of theatrical works written, directed, designed and starring LMU students.
The festival, which begins today, will feature 12 original plays that were selected last fall by a panel of faculty judges. During the selection process, the faculty advisors conducted a series of interviews to pair each written work with a student to direct the show. Once the writer and director were both on board, a massive open casting was held for all the plays being produced.
Many students directing or acting in the New Works Festival are also members of the crew or are cast in other plays within the production. “I’m assistant directing 'How to Make a Movie' with [senior screenwriting major] Cameron Tagge during the first bill, and also starring in [senior theatre arts major] Heather Gottlieb’s 'Eulogies' on the second bill,” Robbins said.
Each play varies in length, theme and style. “How to Make a Movie,” for example, is an entirely improvised sketch which changes dramatically during every rehearsal. “I trust [the actors] to get across stories and characters,” Robbins said. “The main challenge with this particular piece is that we always go over our set time, mostly because we’re having so much fun with it.”
Other works being performed display the spectrum of dramatic theatre. From “Push,” where two students learn that friendship and loyalty may not have universal meanings, to “Truth or Dare,” which explores the exciting and embarrassing feelings of pursuing a crush, the plays effectively capture the nuances of both drama and comedy.
The festival is the perfect way to showcase the many talents of LMU students, and the dozen works being performed certainly put both cast and crew to the test. “That means 12 different sets, each more detailed than the next,” junior theatre arts major and crew member Adrienne Hughes said. “It’s definitely high stress moving around backstage of the tiny Barnelle Theatre, but worth it to help the student writers and directors see their shows come to life.”
Though students entirely produce the shows, notable theatre arts professors Dana Resnick and Doris Baizley have been working nonstop with the students to ensure quality productions. “The 12 playwrights have made significant changes to their scripts throughout the process under the guidance of the dramaturg, Doris Baizley,” said Resnick, the producer and overseer of the festival.
The New Works Festival highlights the spirit of collaboration essential to any theatre production, multiplied by 12. While writers, producers and actors worked together to nail down lines, blocking and performances, assistant professor of theatre arts Leon Wiebers’ design class labored to create and organize all of the costumes, scenery, sound and lighting required by each unique play.
The 12 plays have been split equally to cover the four-day festival, beginning with Bill One in Barnelle Theatre on Wednesday, April 29 and Friday, May 1 at 8 p.m. Bill Two opens Thursday, April 30, at 8 p.m. and will have a matinee performance on Saturday, May 2, at 1 p.m. Finally, there will also be a special marathon run of both bills on Saturday, May 2, beginning at 7 p.m. Admission is free, but arrive early, as there will be no late admittance.