New Voices 34

New Voices 34 will feature eight original plays by undergraduate students

• The country’s longest running collegiate new and original play festival will debut its 34th season this week when the curtain rises on New Voices. The festival, which features eight plays by undergraduate students, runs April 13-16, at 7 p.m., at the WPI Little Theatre.

April 11, 2016
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Of the short plays and monologues this year, four are by student writers who have had plays in the festival before, and four are from new writers, according to Susan Vick, professor of drama/theatre and director of theatre, who runs the program.

“I just love these plays so much!” she says. “We’ve got something for everyone.”

This year’s lineup includes reflections on the effect of college life on self-discovery (Oops, I Smoked Crack Again by Emily Cafarelli ’19); a fictionalized account of a real-life airplane near-disaster (Foxtrot Delta Romeoby Nicholas C. Cyganski ’17); a body-switching farce in which an astrophysicist’s pets have to deliver groundbreaking news at a press conference (Fur Heaven’s Sake by Dan Murray ’16); and a moral dilemma with advice from some unusual characters (The Apathy Fairy by Mark Swanson ’16).

Also on the schedule: An intense farewell to loss, pain and innocence (Silence Speaks for Me by Kimberly Stanway ’19); a complex marriage proposal (Are There Trees in Heaven? by Victoria Loehle ’17); and a tale of reality, dreams, and a genetically altered sheep (Psych 117 by Casey Broslawski ’17).

The evening of plays ends with a madcap adventure inspired by a secret between siblings (Here Be PIRATES!by Maeve McCluskey ’16).

“You know, pirates are de rigueur these days,” Vick says with a chuckle.

New Voices receives an average of 25-50 submissions each year. The program’s dramaturgs read every script submitted and select the plays to be performed during the New Voices festival that year. The selecting dramaturgs are theatre professionals or academics with years of experience in new play development.

New Voices began shortly after Vick’s arrival at WPI in 1981, when a student asked if he could write a play to satisfy his sufficiency requirement—a condition of the WPI Plan that assured students would have a sustained and significant engagement with the Humanities and Arts. At the time, the humanities program was much smaller and there were no writing or theatre courses. Vick said yes, but insisted the student include a reading for an audience.

Subsequently, a few more students asked to write and direct plays, and New Voices was born. Over the years, the festival has included work by graduate students, faculty, and even alumni and friends, with as many as 27 plays produced in a single year. However, in 2007 the organizers settled on a minimum of five and maximum of nine plays to be performed each festival. Also, only registered WPI students may now submit.

According to Vick, by the end of this year’s run, New Voices will have produced 431 plays by 230 writers.

“We’ve had some plays produced that I’d put up against anything, anywhere,” she says.

WPI students are practical, so a career in theatre is not their usual path after graduation, says Vick. But some whose plays were produced in New Voices have pursued theatrical careers, including actor David Fraioli ’87. Also, game specialist and WPI assistant teaching professor Dean O’Donnell ’86 went on to earn an MFA in dramatic writing and has had several plays produced. Others have worked in stagecraft and management, she says.

“Among the playwrights for this particular festival, you’ve got robotics people, biology people, architectural engineering people—the whole spectrum. There is a place for everybody in the arts programs we have here,” she says.

New Voices 34 is free and open to the public. Because seating often fills up, Vick recommends reserving tickets.  For ticket reservations and more information, visit http://users.wpi.edu/~theatre/new-voices/.

– BY CATE PRATO