The Undergraduate Theater Society (UTS) has produced many impressive shows at the UW this year: From “The Picture of Dorian Gray” during autumn quarter to “Yellow Face” in winter, the hard work of the cast and crew members has made each show a success. On May 23 and 24, the UTS will put on the New Works Festival, one of its most unique productions of the year.
The New Works Festival consists of a series of 15-minute plays written, directed, and performed entirely by undergraduates. This year, the festival will showcase six plays, which UTS Creative Development Director Michael Hanley said is the highest number of works ever produced for the festival.
Hanley, who has worked as a director in and outside of the UTS, first tried directing in the 2013 New Works Festival. He said that the festival is a great opportunity for students who want to try playwriting, directing, or acting for the first time. In professional theater productions outside of college, the writers, directors, and actors must closely work together to produce a show, and Hanley said many thespians do not gain this important experience until after college.
“Making sure that young people are given the opportunity to create work only happens when all these elements come together,” Hanley said. “Supporting new student work is, I think, a worthy cause for people to get involved with.”
Alyssa Karounos is one of the playwrights whose work will be featured in the festival. Her play, “Freeing Freedom of Speech,” portrays a conversation between a group of countries about freedom of speech. Each character is a caricature of a country. For example, England is an old woman who constantly argues with her rebellious daughter, the United States.
Karounos began writing plays in high school, but her New Works play was inspired by an assignment in a playwriting class she took at the UW during winter quarter. Karen Hartman told her students to write scenes based on news stories. Karounos’ scene based on the Charlie Hebdo shooting inspired her to write a complete play about freedom of speech.
“Writing is such a great way to create a whole world and create people,” Karounos said. “I think being creative is important for any field, even if you aren’t a humanities major.”
New Works is also an opportunity for aspiring actors to get involved with UTS. Sneha Krishnan and Anthony Baker play the two characters in “Lollipops from Old Men,” written by Carly Hood and directed by Dana Fraij. Krishnan plays a pessimistic 16-year-old girl whose car breaks down, and Baker plays a kind man in his sixties who tries to convince her to have a more positive outlook on life.
Krishnan and Baker said they appreciate how New Works makes participation in theater accessible for students outside of the drama major. Krishnan is a biology major, and she has been unable to participate in UTS productions in the past because of the demanding time commitment.
“It’s a nice way to casually be involved in acting or directing or playwriting, because [the rehearsals] are only one month,” Krishnan said. “And it’s really fun.”
The New Works Festival will take place on May 23 and May 24 in Hutchinson Hall. The event is free and all members of the UW community are invited to attend.
Hanley, Karounos, Krishnan, and Baker all look forward to this year’s New Works Festival and encourage other undergraduates to explore their creative interests through the UTS.
“Getting involved in theater in general is such an amazing way to make friends, to break out of your comfort zone, to become comfortable with yourself, and to create,” Karounos said. “New Works is a safe, low-key environment where mistakes are 100 percent accepted and probably expected. It’s a great way to step forward and introduce yourself to UTS and introduce yourself to theater. Regardless of whether it’s acting, directing, or writing, UTS is a very welcoming place, and New Works is a really wide door to get there.”
Reach writer Katie Anastas at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @KatieAnastas