Students Showcase Their Work in the Student New Works Festival

Two semesters’ worth of collaboration and dedication paid off for the University of New Haven students involved in the biennial Student New Works Festival, a student created short play festival.

Starting in fall 2017, when the plays were little more than fragmented ideas, through spring of 2018, the process of the festival has engaged participants from two theater courses.  

Starting on Wednesday, April 18 through Saturday, April 21, the cast and crew of the festival debuted their pieces in Bucknall Theater. Ten new plays made up the program, though Wednesday night’s was senior theater major Brittany Palmer’s play, Hibiscus, a full-length production, as opposed to the other pieces which were approximately ten minutes long. 

Of the students who performed on stage, many filled other roles in the theatrical setting in order to keep the festival completely student-run. 

“The class has put in so many hours of work on these shows, between writing, rehearsals, and memorizing lines and it really shows on the stage,” said Jared Reynolds, a senior theater arts major and political science minor. “Nearly every student involved has worked in some capacity on multiple shows- with a few actors memorizing and performing three to four shows in the festival.”

Reynolds wrote  two of the productions, directed one, and performed in another.

Erica Quaedvlieg, a senior theater arts major, filled four roles within the theater setting, including writer, director, dramaturg and performer.

To have the opportunity to work in not one but four process’ that have involved the growth of a fellow thespians work is an incredible experience,” she said. “It has been a challenge, but a learning experience.”

Jonathan Yukich, M.F.A, was the festival coordinator and Margaret F. Savilonis, Ph.D., served as the dramaturgy coordinator.

“The process of conceiving, realizing, and producing new work is a magnificent training ground for students,” said Yukich. “New work is the bloodline of the theatre.  New voices, fresh perspectives – these are absolutely essential to our future.  I told students the other day: everyone loves Dear Evan Hansen, the hit Broadway musical, but two years ago it was still in development, and everyone was wondering if it was any good, if it would make it. We sometimes forget that everything is new at some point, even the classics. Great works have to begin somewhere.”

Savilonis said, ” We are incredibly proud of the hard work our students have done throughout this process, and we are thrilled that our program provides such opportunities for our students and the UNH community.” 

Michael Kennedy, a junior theater arts major and writer,director and actor in the festival contributed what he called “a very personal piece” to the festival. 

“Behind every one of these plays is a lot of love and care,” said Kennedy. “We have all put our hearts and souls into these pieces, and I really hope people see that come through in the performance.”