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April 20, 2010

New Work Week puts student writing on stage

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In the past week, aspiring writers, directors, and actors have engaged in New Work Week, presented by University Theater (UT) and TAPS. Containing mostly original scripts composed by students, it featured a diverse array of genres ranging from drama to comedy, and included everything in between. From viewing several of last week’s plays, one thing became clear: There is a plethora of talent among our college’s writers, directors, actors, and stage crew.

One of the student playwrights, third-year Nick Currie, commented upon the source of inspiration for his play, March Rose: “This particular play was inspired by a story someone told me years ago, and it’s a story I’ve been trying to tell, to make my own since then,” he said. “The characters and setting were always there, but the question was how I wanted to tell the story—what the narrative needed to look like, what kind of meaning I wanted the events of the story to bring out, how to use the language of the characters and their interpersonal dynamics to speed the plot.”

Though the ideas may have been incubating in the minds of the playwrights for some time, the speediness of the productions’ development demands that the actors, directors, and stage crew collaborate at all times. First-year Ted Gold sheds some light on the experience of New Work Week, noting that “there’s the distinct possibility that you have the show rewritten out from under you over the course of rehearsals. But since you always have the scripts while onstage, who cares?”

Currie also discussed how his play had a tendency to develop during the simultaneous writing/staging process.

“[The play] sort of developed over time —it’s gone through a lot of variations and versions before I decided to tell the story this particular way... That’s part of what’s great about New Work Week: It shows you the possibilities your play has yet to explore, and reminds you that really, you’re never finished. And that that’s a good thing, and an exciting thing.”

When his production was finally presented to the public, Currie couldn’t help but feel jittery. “Watching it as the playwright meant a lot of mixed feelings. There were moments where I was just so captivated by what was happening—laughing, like you said, but also sitting with my hand on my face and my mouth open, leaning forward and holding my breath—where I almost forgot I had written those words.”

Gold feels a similar rush when acting onstage. “There’s the basic pleasure you get from pretending to be somewhere else. People have spent years of their lives talking about the ‘best’ way of acting, but it comes down to this: You’re being given license, as an adult, to play make-believe onstage. That’s awesome.”

The creative process was empowering, but also constantly evolving, and there were times when nothing was as it seemed.

“It’s so different than when I sat down and wrote it,” Currie said of his play. “You get surprised by what’s powerful onstage. And likewise you see where you’ve gone too far, or not far enough. There’s only so much you can do at your desk on your own; sooner or later you have to give it over to someone else to make sense of. But I was able to watch the play and remember why I wrote it, and that’s really important as well.”

Gold kept the spirit of New Work Week in perspective. “By all accounts, this year was pretty high quality, so count the blessings, no?” Everything wasn’t always perfect, but that wasn’t a concern. “It really comes down to this: it’s a show,” he said. “Shows need to be worked on.”

UT/TAPS’s annual New Work Week provides the opportunity for aspiring novice playwrights to take their ideas and thoughts and share them aloud. It gives them a fresh perspective on what needs to be changed, improved, or kept intact. Meanwhile, actors are given the flexibility to toy with the writer’s words. Finally­—what is the best part for the rest of us—we the audience are allowed a glimpse inside the workings of a creative master’s mind.

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