By Rebecca Kirkman
TU Department of Theatre Arts Productions presents a collection of eight plays through March 27
What world do we want to create? How do we take the next steps together?
The Towson University Department of Theatre Arts invited student playwrights to explore these questions by submitting new, 10-minute works for four actors or fewer that could be rehearsed and created via Zoom. It also commissioned three guest playwrights to create works for the festival.
Eight pieces—three from guest artists and five from TU students—were chosen in a blind selection process by a faculty committee including associate professor Julie Potter, professor Peter Wray and assistant professor Mukwae Wabei Siyolwe.
The result is “New Works for What Comes Next: A Festival of Virtual Performance,” available on demand through March 27. Tickets are available through the TU Box Office.
Audiences will experience a variety of styles and approaches that address “tremendously important ideas: the power of the vote; the difficulty of knowing what comes next; the stubbornness of hope; how we navigate our social lives through the lens of COVID-19; and how what we are doing, believing and dreaming now will inform what we pass on to our descendants,” says Robyn Quick, professor and department chair. “We’ll see a variety of visions and a tremendous variety of artistic means of using Zoom as a storytelling mechanism.”
The festival combines two of the department’s longstanding values—empowering student voices and collaborative learning.
When the pandemic disrupted the usual opportunities for student experiences in productions, the department created a virtual production that would offer students as many opportunities as possible.
“It really grew out of this important question of how we make theater in and for this moment and in a way that’s possible right now,” Quick says. “How do we come together as a community virtually to take the next steps to a future together?”
Students and faculty collaborated as directors, actors and designers. “This was really designed as a way to bring the community together to create in different kinds of teams,” she adds.
Also, in the spirit of community and teamwork, the department invited guest playwrights Annalisa Dias, director of artistic partnerships and innovation at Baltimore Center Stage; Teshonne Nicole Powell, an arts administrator and member of Washington, D.C., playwrights’ collective The Welders; and Cristina Luzárraga, an alumna of The Second City Conservatory in Chicago, to create works for the festival.
Cultivating relationships with guest artists offers additional learning opportunities for theatre students. Luzárraga previously guest-taught a course on playwrighting for TU students in fall 2020, and the festival’s three guest artists will give workshops to theatre students in the second half of the spring term.
For TU students, participating in the festival offered an opportunity to reflect on the past and look to the future—all while developing the important skills of adaptability and collaboration.
“This experience was really impactful because it allowed for so many voices to be heard,” says Chloe Harvey ’21, a senior theatre arts major whose play “Down the Street” was selected for the festival. “It also provided me the opportunity to work with artists in the department that I hadn’t worked with before and make some very talented new friends.”
The call for submissions resonated with Harvey because of the endless possibilities it offered. “I found that the pandemic provided us the opportunity to think deeply and seriously about what we want our lives to look like, so the prompt encouraged me to be more optimistic regarding what I want to see in the future,” she says. “I hope that after watching ‘Down the Street,’ the audience realizes that it’s okay to break tradition, and that often change can be for the better.”
Join us for New Works for What Comes Next, an online festival of 10-minute new works by TU students and guest playwrights presented by collaborative teams of students, faculty and staff. May contain material recommended for mature audiences. Proceeds benefit the TU Foundation.
New Works for What Comes Next: A Festival of Virtual Performance
Towson University Theatre Arts Productions
Available Online March 22 – 27