By Jenna Pierson

The Fearless New Play Festival at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center wrapped up its three-day showcase of scripts in development on March 9 in the Dance Theatre.

The event, which was sponsored by the University of Maryland’s School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies, featured original work by current students and alumni.

The festival’s activities began on Feb. 17 with a live panel of theatre professionals that jump-started nearly three weeks of rehearsals and feedback sessions for the pieces that were performed on March 8 and 9.

On March 7, acclaimed playwright and screenwriter Sheila Callaghan gave a speech to students and presented an excerpt of an up-and-coming play of hers. Callaghan is known for her work as a producer for the TV show “Shameless.”

On March 8, there were staged readings of current students’ work. Eight students had their work showcased to the public: “Bread and Roses” by Yiwen Feng, “Dakota” by Olivia Litteral, “Delilah Revisited” by Jared Strange, “Standardized” by Jasmine Mitchell, “Twenty Down” by Jamie Bokman, “Pleonasm” by Jordan Resnick, “I Don’t” by Jordan Ealey and “Szia Ruth” by Amber Smithers.

“I thought it was really exciting to see all this new work,” Abigail Olshin, junior English and theatre double major said. “It is really an important growth opportunity for students who are trying to break into the playwriting process … it’s important for them to be able to see and hear their hard work.”

The last day of the festival, March 9, was dedicated to readings of the pieces written by UMD theatre alumni. There were eight short plays in total: “CrossFit WonderWoman” by Sam Mauceri, “Ceasefire” by Avery Collins, “What to do When You’re Suicidal but You Can’t Fight Fascists When You’re Dead” by Natalie Ann Valentine, “Field Glass” by Martin Thompson, “It’s a Queer Thing” by Radcliffe Adler, “The White Talk” by Whitney Geohagan, “Terrible Lizard” by Megan Meinero, and “Sweet Dreams” by Nikki Lust.

The alumni plays varied from the comedic to the dramatic and explored a variety of cultural and social issues. Prominent moments in the festival were the performances of “It’s a Queer Thing,” which addressed misconceptions, stereotypes and appropriations of the LGBTQ community; “CrossFit WonderWoman,” which addressed topics of gender, sexual harassment and race and “Ceasefire,” which centered around the consequences of gun violence in Baltimore.  

“I loved seeing how the ensembles [of actors] could take on so many parts in this process,” Justine Morris, junior theatre major, said. “I loved seeing what my friends can create and their realm of capability.”

The festival is new and took over 70 collaborators and multiple years of preparation to come to fruition, according to director Jennifer Barclay, who is also a professor in the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies.

UMD alumni also found the process to be incredibly rewarding, as it allowed them to come back to where they learned many of their techniques and share their work with former professors and friends. Each graduate had a different perspective from the evening and has different reasons for why they love what they do.

Theatre was emphasized as being an outlet for creative expression and social justice and audience members were given the opportunity to offer their favorite moments and lines of the readings, as well as constructive feedback for how to make the future performances more poignant.

“I force myself to write every day, even if it’s complete garbage,” UMD alum and playwright of “Terrible Lizard” Megan Meinero said. “The most rewarding thing for me has been making people laugh.”

Featured Photo Credit: TDPS student Erin Valade performs on March 7 (David Andrews).

Jenna Pierson is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at jennampierson00@gmail.com.

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