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New Play Festival showcases theater student’s talents

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The Appalachian Online

Students from the theatre and dance department will be holding their annual New Play Festival, a long time tradition of the theatre department club, Playcrafters. There will be four plays presented that were all written, produced, directed and acted by Appalachian State students.

The New Play Festival was started as a way to give student artists a chance to get their work noticed, since well-known playwrights write most of the plays that come to Appalachian State. Students who wanted to showcase more work by themselves and their peers started the festival.

Tywuane “TJ” Lewis, a junior theatre arts major, is the chair and production manager of NPF. He described the NPF as a “spring board for artistic expression among App State students.” Lewis’s job consists of overseeing the setup and execution of the NPF along with helping select the plays that will be shown at the festival.

Lewis also picks the student directors, organizes auditions and books performance spaces. Working alongside Lewis is Julia Ridenhour, a sophomore theatre arts major and assistant production manager.

Lewis said he has newfound respect for any kind of management position because of all the work he had to do while coordinating and overseeing the NPF.

The experience has helped me immensely because it helped me grow up in many ways,” Lewis said. “But also the mere fact that I am helping create opportunities for other people who love doing what I do is satisfying in itself.”

Lewis said student playwrights, creative writing majors and those who write for fun are able to have their work brought to life for the public because of the NPF.

“The festival is a way for us as students to try our hand at the art we want to make a careers out of,” he said.

Lewis said that creating an environment where student artists can grow and blossom is a goal everyone should have since art is a major part of our culture. Students around this campus are the future of that art, he said.

“Some students all over campus have no idea about our department and the hidden talent that graces its halls,” Lewis said. “The festival, along with any show we put on here at school, is the perfect way to showcase that talent.”

Lewis said it is better to lend a hand now and give them the push they need to succeed than not giving them any kind of supportive push at all.

There are four plays this year and each play is about 15-20 minutes long with a 10 minute intermission between each act.

Jenna Tonsor, junior performance theatre major, is the director of the play “Every Now and Then” written by Jaraad Samad, senior English major.

Tonsor said the play is seemingly mundane or like there will be nothing happening, but that is actually quite the opposite. It is about saying the things that hurt but with a few giggles thrown in along the way.

It’s about breaking rhymes and cycles, tearing down walls of comfort so to speak,” Tonsor said. “Though one cannot do those things until they drop their personalized myopia and see that those things exist in their world at all.”

Tonsor wanted to be a director because she believes it is imperative for any artist of any time to be multifaceted and well educated in multiple areas of her craft.

She said everything is interdependent, so having a competency in directing will only help to improve her competency in acting, playwriting and dramaturgy.

The New Play Festival is not a graded assignment for theater department students, beyond the social ridicule of your peers, Tonsor said. It was actually “100% self-inflicted,” meaning the students of the theater department took initiative last spring to apply for positions for the festival.

Sarah Duttlinger, senior performance theatre major, is the director for the play “Yogurt,” written by Melanie Lech, senior interdisciplinary studies major. This is Duttlinger’s first time as a director.

“My show is a romantic comedy and it closes out the festival each evening with a splash,” Duttlinger said.

Duttlinger said that the festival has functioned as a producer for these students works and always produces unique and challenging work for the students involved.

Kenneth Petroski, junior performance theatre major and stage manager for the NPF, said he is honored to be apart of the NPF as a stage manager. He said the stage manager’s job is to handle all the duties that the director needs and is the director’s representative during performances to make sure everything runs smoothly.

Petroski believes that it is important for all students to come out and support the NPF because it is a student-run festival.

“My expectations are extremely high for this festival,” Petroski said. “I believe people are going to be impressed with the amount of time and energy spent to make this festival happen and I think all kinds of people are going to love the different plays.”

Lewis said he encourages students to come see the NPF because it is not only entertaining, but it is also a good way to show support to fellow colleagues.

“The New Play Festival this year will work as a physical manifesto of the many hurdles jumped to put it on its feet,” Tonsor said. “I feel like we’ve been fought every step of the way, but no one will put their sword and shield down until art written, directed and performed by students finds itself back on the Greer stage.”

The New Play Festival will begins on Thursday at 7 p.m. in I.G. Greer Studio, and run until the last show at 7 p.m. on Saturday. Student tickets are $5 and general admission is $6.

Story by: Katie Murawski, A&E Editor 

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