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April 20, 2015

Caps off to B.A. workshops

It is likely that while wandering around the University in the first few weeks of the spring quarter, you will see signs plastering the performance spaces with advertisements for New Work Week. Once a year, UChicago’s Theater and Performance Studies (TAPS) puts on a two-week-long festival called New Work Week; the first week provides TAPS majors and minors a space to showcase their Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) Theses, and the second week gives the general UChicago body a space to showcase their New Work.

“Usually, it’s just UT [University Theater] regulars that attend these, but also sometimes friends of the writers or directors,” said a TAPS major and actor in the New Work Week shows. “I wish it could become a regular thing because, while I love UT people, it would be great to meet non–UT people…and make art and theater with them.”

This seems to be a widely shared opinion. Natalie Wagner, a second-year in the College and regular New Work Week attendant, stresses that since New Work Week is so eclectic in nature, the content that is put on would be interesting and pertinent to a large number of UChicago students.

The content available at New Work Week comes in diverse formats, lengths, and cast sizes. For example, on Sunday fourth-year Alexandra Levitas’s B.A., On Being a Polish Jew—An Experiment in Theatrical Museology, was a presentation on Polish-Jewish life in the format of a museum. Her show was interactive; characters stood around the audience in a circle while audience members prompted the characters with questions about their experience with Polish Jews. Shows range from One Direction fan-fiction pieces to staged readings to dance pieces.

It is easy to wonder, then, since a large component of New Work Week is that it’s so experimental, where the most helpful audience feedback would come from. “It’s definitely useful to have the feedback from other theater people who can give you more technical changes to make, but it’s also really helpful to get feedback from people who are outside the theater world, who can tell you objectively what to fix,” said Eloise Hyman, a second-year in the College and a regular New Work Week actor.

However, since the works are also not completely finished, it is also easy to wonder if those without a theater and performance studies background would be able to fully appreciate the shows, since they are more experimental. According to Levitas, everyone knows what they’re getting into when they buy a ticket. “I think it’s pretty clear…that this is new work. I’ve never heard people complain. In fact, I think it’s a good way to make people interested in theater that wouldn’t normally be.”

New Work Week has a tendency to pull in people that normally would not be interested in theater: actors, writers, and directors alike. New Work Week acts as a creative outlet for those who would not normally have the opportunity. “A lot of the people putting forth non–B.A. work are not Theater and Performance Studies students, and it’s just because we are passionate students who love to create something new…. And it’s just putting that creativity and that passion to use,” Hyman said. “We want to do things that aren’t just our academic work.”

The second half of New Work Week starts Thursday, April 23 and runs until April 25.

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