Editor’s Note: Scot Reese is a professor with TDPS -not the director. The story has been updated to reflect this change.

The art of performance is something appreciated and celebrated all over the world in many different cultures and in many different ways.

With that being said, it is of growing importance to broaden each of our world views and expose ourselves to cultures unlike our own, and theatre students at this university will be doing just that.

For the 25th anniversary of the Kennedy Center’s New Visions/New Voices festival, the University of Maryland will be collaborating with the Kennedy Center for a special celebration: for the first time incorporating an international component by inviting playwrights and producers from South Africa, Korea and India.

University theatre, dance and performance studies students, actors, dramaturges and designers will be working with the playwrights for a one-of-a-kind experience, having the opportunity to learn from these mentor figures and gaining experience in the field while also stepping into cultures from around the world.

The project begins two weeks prior to the upcoming shows at this university. Students research and learn about the cultures that will be presented, all before meeting the playwrights in person to work toward editing, tweaking and adjusting the performances to best convey their messages to the audience.

Students during rehearsal. (Courtesy of Leigh Wilson Smiley)
Students during rehearsal. (Courtesy of Leigh Wilson Smiley)

“They’re getting the international experience without leaving the University of Maryland,” said School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies professor Scot Reese.“It’s like studying abroad without leaving the comfort of the school.”

Jonelle Walker, a theatre history and performance studies masters student, will be a dramaturg at the program, an uncommon term outside theatre conversation.

“A dramaturg serves as an advocate for the audience. We work with the playwright and help them to realize what their audience will get out of it,” Walker explained. “We’re a coach for the playwright and help them bring their plays to reality.”

The themes for the performances range from serious to lighthearted and offers audiences with an “array of new plays that come from a vast variety of cultural experiences,” according to Walker.

Walker will be working with the play The Other Side, which takes place in India. As Walker describe, it is a “beautiful play about friendship and love” that can easily be relatable to the audience even if they don’t know very much about the Indian-Pakistani conflict.

“Playwrights and students alike will benefit from the partnership—playwrights will have the ability to workshop their plays in a world-class setting with some of the best students in the country, and students will be exposed to theater and theater artists from a variety of cultures, leading them on the path to understanding and empathy,” Reese said in a director’s note.

After the two-week period at the university, the performances will commence at The Clarice April 29-30, and then excerpts from the nine shows will be compiled into hour-long performances at the Kennedy Center May 2-7.

The nine performances scheduled for this upcoming weekend are geared toward young audiences and families from a wide range of backgrounds. The student-actors will conduct staged readings during Maryland Day this Saturday.

Audience members can expect to be plunged into the cultures and traditions of these countries through the talented performances and hard work of not only the actors, but all those involved behind the scenes.

“They’re [the audience] going to get a cultural experience that is immersive [through the] words and stories of these wonderful countries,” Reese said.

Featured Photo Credit: Scot Reese (Courtesy of TDPS)

Jordan Stovka is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at jstovka@icloud.com.

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