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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

‘The Ontology Ward’ Debuts at UMass Boston in ‘New Voices New Stoies’

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‘New Voices New Stories’ is now playing at the McCormack Theatre

On April 16, “New Voices New Stories” debuted two original plays written by University of Massachusetts Boston alumni Pete Riesenberg and Cat Roberts, respectively, who won the annual New Voice contest that was held this past September. Riesenberg, who submitted three different screenplays, spoke about his play, “The Ontology Ward,” and his excitement for others to see it.

“I’m very excited. We started off with a 61-page script and after a little bit of rehearsal we realize some adjustments needed to be made,” said Riesenberg.

“I was a theatre major and I had readings of some of my plays previously while I was there in the Black Box and on the McCormack stage but nothing fully staged like this.”

Riesenberg and Roberts were invited to participate in the New Voices festival, which called on students and recent alumni to submit their original 10-minute plays. Out of 27 submissions, Risenberg and Roberts were chosen to expand their plays into one-act productions. Along with his original submission, Riesenberg presented two other plays, but there was something about “The Ontology Ward” that won everyone over. 

Riesenberg was inspired to write his play based off an article he read about a case in Texas. A transgender person and their partner went to court to get a divorce but the judge refused to grant them their request because he didn’t recognize their marriage in the eyes of the law.

“So that sort of got me thinking, ‘My God, what other instances might there be where the body of law has not really caught up with the culture today?’” said Riesenberg.

“I discovered that the state of Rhode Island still allows for something they call an old-fashion entail, just like Downton Abbey, where the estate passes to the firstborn son. So the ‘what if’ was what if a transgender woman was challenged for her rights to inherit the estate? So, in my play, a distant cousin challenges her right to inherit the estate saying a first-born son no longer exists just as surely as if he had died. So, that was the jumping-off point.”

Riesenberg’s play raises questions about legitimacy, elitism, and the law as two characters fight for the right to claim who they are in spite of the law, tradition, and society. “I’m looking forward to the reaction, of people’s thoughts of the issues that are raised in the eye of the law,” said Riesenberg.
Riesenberg’s “The Ontology Ward,” and Robert’s societal play “Argyles,” which touches upon current issues plaguing this country, such as racial policing, rape, and homophobia, will be playing at the McCormack Theatre until April 24.
Check out umb.edu/newvoices for showtimes and to purchase tickets.