New Works Festival

MiMi Yeh

The Theatre section of the Performing Arts Department has been busy for the month of November and December. Alice in Wonderland is over and now we usher in a number of new, short pieces written, directed, and acted by students. Whether it was intentional or not, most of the New Works Festival scripts seemed to be stories of the various battles in the war between the sexes.

The New Works Festival opened with “The Bridal Chamber,” written by Emily Hood and directed by Frank Nagel. Two sisters, Autum (Lyn Ben-Simon) and Summer (Karen Rowe) are in a bridal shop awaiting fittings for dresses with the help of Pamela (“call me Pammy”) Chambers (Amber Kerner), the shop’s owner. Ethan (Andrew Annis), Summer’s fiancé, is late and she’s upset. When he does finally arrive, he gives a flirty “Hello” to Pammy, to Summer’s consternation. Summer asks him where he knew her from and he admits to having mistakenly slept with “Slammy Pammy” in high school: another instance of where the past can come back to haunt the present. It may be difficult to deal with your lover’s former lovers but, in Summer’s case, Ethan reassures her that she is the one he is marrying, not Pammy.

Crossing the Rubicon, by Joshua Paul, was a powerful example of just how the intimacy of a close friendship doesn’t always survive the leap to romance unless both parties are willing. This piece, directed by Wendy Nystrom, tells the story of Steve (Khalid Hill) and Sarah (Bridget Battell).

Sarah and Steve were inseparable for several years. They fell out of touch for a while before Sarah called Steve up to hang out. They picked up from where their friendship had left off. However, Sarah, obviously uncomfortable with their situation, starts to assume that Steve has feelings for her and tries to confront him without actually asking, point-blank, if he does. Because she is out of sorts, she becomes irrationally angry, projecting her own inability to deal with her attraction to Steve by lashing out at him. He pleads that he only wants to go for lunch because he’s hungry and it culminates with him asking her what would happen if they did take that step.

Crossing the Rubicon is powerful for two reasons, the ending and the dynamics. Sarah’s only answer to Steve’s question is to turn her back and walk away with the stage. the play, and the mood finishing in darkness. We see Sarah’s ignorance of her own feelings and Steve’s obvious confusion as to why she trying to pick fights with him.

“Ready?” (written by Megan Maloney and directed by Kate Kelly) tells the humorous and slightly sad tale of Tara’s (Stephanie Romano) quest to lose her virginity to the hottest guy in the school, the star quarterback, who is also taking her to the prom. Jill (Elizabeth Hanley), her best friend, is shocked by her callous dismissal of what Jill thinks should be something special, reminding her that once you lose it, you can’t get it back. She feels that Tara should beware of this guy because he’s already gotten one of their fellow female classmates pregnant. Tara, ditzy and dazed at her “good fortune,” points out that their classmate just has a “big beer gut.”

Tara remains stubborn and brushes off Jill’s concern, claiming that her friend’s jealousy and the fact that her date is gay is why she can’t appreciate Tara’s good fortune. This precipitates a harsh fight, with Jill throwing Tara’s underwear in her face, and Tara repeatedly shouting the word “condom” into her friend’s embarrassed face. It is comic as well as being sad that Tara is innocent and blind to this jock’s intentions. It is the story of every high school girl who’s ever been taken advantage of. Yet, after Jill storms out, Tara picks up the phone and calls the jock and the apprehension in her voice makes us realize that maybe she isn’t as immature as she has been behaving.

The staged readings, not to be confused with stage readings where actors sit and read from a script, varied in quality. Eileen Rooney’s Cockzilla was successful in its comedic attempt but Falling in Love With Adam and Interrogation by Sarah DiMeo and Shawn Wilmar, respectively, experienced difficulties in projection and believability. Staged readings require the actor to experience the emotions and deliver the lines while remaining stationary. The limitations on movement and body language can carry over in an actor’s ability to convey his or her lines credibly. The failure to project caused some of the dialogue and plots to be lost.

Already in its second year, the New Works Festival allows the public to get a good taste of the ranges and abilities of the entire department. This venture is a way for students to have complete control over productions, to experience and explore their own capabilities.