The New Play Festival Review

 Photo by Abby Whisler.

Photo by Abby Whisler.

In lieu of a spring musical this year, Covenant’s Theatre department presented the New Play Festival, a collection of ten student-written plays, each ten minutes in length. The Festival was presented this weekend with performances on Thursday and Friday nights, as well as a matinee performance on Saturday. Preparation for the production began in October with the reading of proposed plays, and the festival was put on entirely by students. Senior Nina Brock produced the event as a part of her SIP, and while she enjoyed the endeavor she found it challenging as well. Brock states, “producing the New Play Festival was a very long and grueling process...Overall, producing was a really fun, yet very difficult task that helped me grow in many ways...I have realized that this job isn’t for everyone. Although it was a great experience, if given the opportunity to produce again, I would most likely not accept. All that to say, I am honored to have had the opportunity to work with so many great people.” The theme of the festival this year was “returning home” and the most interesting part of the show was seeing the ways that the different playwrights interpreted this theme.             

To illustrate the variety of interpretation, Molly Holleran’s Ten Years in Ten Minutes was a ten-minute speed-through version of the Odyssey. This related to the theme because the Odyssey is, of course, all about Odysseus returning home. Silhouettes by Casey Williams explored one woman’s experience with voices in her head, opening the scene with the voices shouting, “We’re home!” Erika Sickler’s The Curse of the Cherokee was a spoof on the horror genre with a couple experiencing strange happenings after moving into a new home. The dark, serious play The Abbot’s Confessor by Tim James presented the story of a monk returning to his former monastery.

The set for the show was minimal with a few black backboards and various black set pieces such as tables, chairs, and stools. Similar to the techniques of black box theatre, each scene made creative use of these sparse set pieces, moving them around to create houses, apartments, or other settings. One of the most creative uses of the stage was in Silhouettes, where characters were backlit behind a curtain to literally become silhouettes. Props were used, but also minimally. The costumes, while not lavish, were detailed in a way that stood out against the spare background. Ranging from togas to modern attire, costuming played a major role in providing a unique look to each play.

The festival was a great idea for an alternative to the spring musical, but there was a lack of polish and shine to the festival that a full play or musical would typically have. The festival included multiple new actors, and many scenes suffered from weak acting, particularly plays that touched on heavy material. This was not the case across the board, however, with many scenes bringing loud laughter and applause from the audience. Additionally, as the festival was directed primarily by students there was room for improvement in blocking and other directorial decisions. If the festival becomes an annual event, hopefully the production value and skill in performance will increase, but still the event was an admirable and entertaining new venture for Covenant’s Theatre department.