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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Students Show Their Plays On-stage at the Student Playwright Festival


Students (from left to right) Ezra Brown, Cat Roberts, and Rich Chason



There are numerous jobs to be done when it comes to putting on a play. There is the director, the stagehands, the actors and the many behind-the-scenes duties. Students at UMass Boston have had the opportunity to take on all of these jobs for the productions put on by the Theatre Arts Department.

Now, for the first time ever, students were given the opportunity to do the job that sets all the other jobs in motion with the UMass Boston Student Playwright Festival, which will present productions of student-written plays March 6, 7, 8 and 9.

“I’ve been wanting to start one since I got here,” said Professor Ginger Lazarus about the festival. After years of putting the idea for a student playwright festival out there, it finally came to fruition when Professor Cliff Odle was willing to direct the student-written plays.

“When I came along, we talked about the idea and thought it was fantastic and that it was something that needed to happen,” said Odle.

Lazarus and Odle put a call-out looking for scripts last spring. The two unanimously looked at 20-25 submissions up until Thanksgiving and selected eight. Four plays will be full productions, and the other four would be staged readings open to the public.

The staged readings took place Feb. 20 and 21.  Lazarus and Odle left the staged readings to be open to the public.  Usually staged readings happen behind closed doors, but the two professors wanted to show the audience what the student playwrights had to go through as the play went from paper to stage. Afterwards, the audience had a chance to ask the playwrights questions.

“I have to remember it’s a play. It’s going to be read a hundred different ways, and you have to make the lines lend themselves to that,” answered Cat Roberts about what she learned from the experience of having actors read something she wrote out loud.

Before this festival, Roberts’ writing wasn’t read by anyone but her sister and friends, let alone in front of an audience, which she felt was “nerve-wracking, but exciting too.”

For all of the playwrights it was the first time their work was put out in front of an audience. Besides the directing, every part of the production is student-run. “Everything is so student based. People are really coming together very passionately to create a successful festival,” said Bailey Sigmon, costume designer for a couple of the plays.

Odle noticed a sense of purpose with these plays that he has not seen in previous productions, and he attributes it to the fact the plays are written by students. “They want to do right by their fellow students and want to see this happen again,” said Odle.

Rick Chason, whose play was selected for the staged readings, found the experience affirming to his desire to be a playwright. “The audience’s response to my play was one of the most meaningful things that has happened to me at UMass.”

Full productions of the student-written plays will be shown in the McCormack Theater on March 6 and 7 at 7 p.m., March 8 at 8 p.m. and March 9 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. For a small synopsis of the student plays, pick up The Mass Media in the hallways around school.