Student showcase gives playwrights a new voice


Olivia Reid

Students of the performing arts center during their dress rehearsal for the upcoming “New Voices, New Stories.” Photo by Olivia Reid / Mass Media Staff

Katrina Sanville, Editor-in-Chief

While any writer can create and come up with concepts, especially playwrights, to have them produced and put on for people to see can be a completely different story altogether. Many creatives rarely, if ever, get to see their work become an actual, visualized piece of art, and often, they sit in Google Drives or notebooks simply gathering dust. However, for students involved with “New Voices, New Stories,” this was not the case, and their works finally became realities.

“New Voices, New Stories: A Celebration of Student Playwrights” was performed from Oct. 6-8 in the University Hall Theater on the first floor of University Hall. All three of the performances were completely sold out, and the shows featured seven plays written and performed by UMass Boston students.

The plays ranged from comical plays surrounding friends on a backpacking trip gone wrong or a mob boss and their bumbling trainee, to far more serious studies into the temptation of recovering from addiction and getting a second chance at life, and everything in between. All of the plays were just about ten minutes long, and were performed in the style of staged readings. The actors had minimal costumes with set pieces that were easy to get on and off, and while they were still acting and performing, all of the actors still held scripts in their hands. There was also a member of the cast that stood off to the side and read the stage directions to the audience in order to paint a full picture for the group.

From the start of the showcase, the talent of the cast and writers was immediately showcased. “Alice in AA” by Alexandria Jones, the first play, followed a recovering alcoholic, Alice, as she grappled with her addiction and the temptations that came with it. In a play on “Alice in Wonderland,” Alice enters into a fantasy world where alcohol becomes personified and attempts to tempt her to break her sobriety and drink again.

The play was such a creative and interesting way to comment on the daily struggles and temptations of addicts when everything seems to be going wrong for them. The personification of the alcoholic beverages was done so creatively with costumes and dialogue, and the tone of the talent of the students at UMass Boston was immediately set.

Following “Alice in AA” was Amaya Levens’ “Illusions of Grandeur,” which was an absolute ride from start to finish. “Illusions of Grandeur” follows two sisters as they help their mother with a risky task.

Levens wrote the play as a response to a much smaller prompt in her screenwriting class, but when “New Voices, New Stories” was announced, she realized it could become something much bigger, and developed the story further. When asked about how it felt to see her play performed for an audience for the first time, Levens commented the following:

“It has been incredibly rewarding. It was the first time I got to have a play of mine come to life, and I’m so impressed by the actors. It was nice to see the show and how it was perceived, since it can be perceived in a couple different ways, and it was great to see that.”

Though all plays were absolutely incredible, a few were absolute standouts. “Lost Girl” by Briana Dowling was so raw and honest, and the fact that the play was so grounded in reality made it all the more enjoyable. In addition, “A Study in Second Chances” by Jamie Roballo was an interesting play on the question of what people would do if they got another chance at life after death, all the while being set in the ever-intriguing old western backdrop. Even still, all of the plays showcased were absolutely incredible, and all of the playwrights and actors were wonderfully talented.

New Voices, New Stories is held every other year, so if any students at UMass Boston would like to have their plays featured in 2024, they may have a chance! However, if that seems a bit too far away, or your graduation comes before the next showcase, the theater company at UMass Boston will also be presenting a musical on campus.

“Working: A Musical” will begin performances on Nov. 16, and was adapted by Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso, and features songs by contemporary composers Craig Carnelia, Micki Grant, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mary Rodgers and Susan Birkenhead, Schwartz, and James Taylor, with orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire. For more information on “Working,” keep an eye out for posters around campus and on social media!