Sixth annual New Works Festival debuts Sept. 14

By Morgan Jackson, Assistant Arts Editor

It is not often that student playwrights get the opportunity to see their characters come to life. In an effort by OBU Theatre and The College Players, many students get to showcase their talents in a new way.
The New Works Festival is in its sixth year at OBU. It showcases the talent of student writers, directors and actors. This year, four short plays written by three different writers will be presented at the Sarkeys Black Box Theater Friday, Sept. 14 at 7:30 p.m.
Each of the works being presented were chosen blindly by a selected committee. The names of the playwrights were removed from the submissions prior to the committee reading them.
“Committee members then rank them and send me the rankings. I compile the rankings and select the top-ranked plays to be presented at the festival,” assistant professor of theatre Matthew Caron said.
The night is especially focused on the content of the scripts and will include brief audience feedback sessions with the playwright following each play.
“While the acting, directing and technical elements will no doubt be compelling, the focus on the evening is on the words of the playwright.” Caron said.
Three students will have their scripts on display at this year’s festival.
Writer Garrett Wheeler had two plays selected for the festival: Confined and Don’t Forget.
“Confined” is the story of “two brothers in prison talking about why they’re there,” and “Don’t Forget” is about a man looking back on his life with his family after he passes away,” Wheeler said.
Both of Wheeler’s plays explore themes regarding familial relationships.
Inspiration for “Confined” struck while Wheeler was on a trip with his English class. Wheeler also stated that he was partially inspired by the video game “A Way Out” which has a similar setting and situation. The game involves teamwork between characters to escape prison.
“It was a cool concept that I wanted to take in a different direction,” Wheeler said.
His play “Don’t Forget” was “very loosely inspired by [his] grandfather.”
Grant McGee had a play chosen for this year’s New Works Festival titled “A Most Inconvenient Visitor.”
It is about a literature professor who is visited by the angel of death.
“He has a conversation with death over a game of cards,” said McGee.
McGee drew inspiration from various literature and said that biblical themes or allusions are present in his play.
McGee said one of the most important messages in his play is that people should “allow themselves to enjoy life outside of the distractions that we may have, even if those distractions are for our benefit.”
The final student playwright is Chase Hendrickson. His play “Quitter” is based on actual events and utilizes transcription of events that occurred on the day his play is set on.
“It’s a tough play, but I feel like it’s very meaningful. I wrote it so that people will feel something. What they feel when they watch it is up to them. It’s a story that needs to be told and deserves to be told,” Hendrickson said.
Themes of “Quitter” include the importance of showing love to people, and “viewing people as whole people with thoughts and dreams and motivations,” Hendrickson said.
This event highlights the talent and creativity of many OBU students. Students are in charge of every aspect of each show. Students are also directing the plays.
“Live performance is and has been a powerful source of social change throughout history. I think it is essential for our OBU students to learn to engage a diverse world through the medium of playwriting,” Caron said.
The New Works Festival was started by The College Players. Each year, they work together with the OBU Theatre Department to assist in the production of the festival. This year, they will be handling front of house roles for the festival.
“Joining the College Players is a great way to be a part of the theatre department without being a theatre major,” Ashley Hontz, president of College Players, said.
“We help the theatre department in any way that we can as well as having events such as Karaoke Nights and Variety Shows.”
The New Works Festival will be presented at the Sarkeys Black Box Theater Friday, September 14 at 7:30 p.m.

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