Through Sunday the Festival of New Works is presenting five performance theses created by Reed seniors. Brianna Walker’s piece, “Looking for Leon”, opens the Festival by leading audience members from the second floor of the Performing Arts Building to the first. This floor-to-floor movement occurs throughout the festival as most of the performances are split up by their acts, the first act of one play being followed by the first act of another play before a return to the second act of the first play. This shifting back and forth between plays keeps up the pace of the festival. Five productions in one sitting might be too much to handle if there weren’t these moments of moving between floors and cliffhangers between acts of the productions.
The first production, “Looking for Leon” by Brianna Walker ’16, is more of an exhibit than a play in the traditional sense. On the second floor of the Performing Arts Building the actors stand frozen in a scene behind the glass display case. The actual thesis production is broken into three pieces separated by parts of other plays; the Festival begins with the first part of Brianna’s work and ends with the third part. Four actors are placed into a scene in which they remain still as mannequins. This piece was successful in its critique of the stereotypes in romance novels, due to its originality. Each of the three parts does a good job of presenting a clear picture.
“Em(Body) Utopia” by Liz Groombridge ’16 is the second thesis and is presented in one sitting. This play calls binary gender constructs into question. It starts with a couch on one side of the stage and a projector on the other side. Throughout the play, the two halves flip. Despite this separation, the two halves are blended well, taking viewers from one side of the stage to the other without disrupting the flow of the play. For anyone interested in audience participation, this is the most participatory of all the plays. At one point an actor even speaks directly to the audience, giving a demonstration for the audience members to join in on.
“Ambiguous Figure” by Hannah MacKenzie-Margulies ’16 is a dance and visual piece, beginning with videos and slides that project titles on the wall behind a single dancer. Besides Brianna Walker’s piece, this presentation stands out as the most unique visual performance because it does not involve any “acting” in the traditional sense. However, the dancer’s representation of the emotions, of the slide captions, videos, and voiceovers is extremely expressive. A powerful piece on what it means to be American and how that idea has changed and evolved over time, this thesis was amazing to watch.
“Beneath Your Feet” by Kevin Snyder ’16 is separated into two parts. The first is a period piece involving the life of a settler, the second an honest look into Snyder’s feelings regarding environmentalism and the ways in which America has abused its power and environment. The second part of “Beneath Your Feet” is unique in the way Snyder switches between historical figures and himself, speaking honestly to the audience. The seemingly simplistic presentation of his views—it is just him on stage with the minimal amount of props—works in conjunction with the feeling of the piece as it allows the audience to focus on what he is saying. Snyder forces his audience to confront uncomfortable facts without alienating or reprimanding them.
“Call to Me” by Larry Drui ’16 stands out among the other theses because it is a voice performance piece. For this piece the stage features only a table, flowers, and a radio. As a single spotlight illuminates the minimal props, the speakers come on. The entirety of Drui’s piece is performed over the speakers, mimicking a radio play.
If you’re looking for a great way to support fellow Reedies, the Festival of New Works is perfect for you!