The Fredric March Play Circle doors were opened for a different crowd on the last February weekend. Normally the location of a free movie put on by the Wisconsin Union Directorate Film Committee, this time the small theater space was filled with play-goers, young and old, excited to see the hard work of their family members and friends come to fruition in the yearly Play Festival. Even a handful of students who had accidentally mistaken Saturday night as a screening of the Disney movie "Tangled" joined the crowd to watch their fellow students perform in the three one-act plays.
Thanks to funding provided by Marcia Legere-Binns, every year students on campus can participate in the festival. Submissions are collected in the fall and, after being ranked by judges from the Theater and Drama and English departments, three winning plays are selected to be performed at the showcase in the spring. Written, directed, performed, and produced by students, the play festival provides a wonderful opportunity for students to engage in theater outside of their normal academic focus and activities.
The three playwrights provided a wonderful variety this year. Even those expecting to see a colorful animated movie based on the Brothers Grimm fairytale, Rapunzel, were entertained by the "film noir" murder mystery, the campy, futuristic science fiction spoof, and the nursing home comedy that graced the Play Circle stage.
"Murder at Bates Manor," written by Kaley Ingenito and directed by Jake Silverman, had the audience laughing almost immediately with its dramatic lighting, costuming, and plot. Actors demonstrated tremendous energy and commitment to their respective characters, as for the most part they were all onstage for the entirety of the 40-minute production. Even Dillon Read, who "died" within the first minute of the play, was able to contribute to maintaining the deceitful, conniving, and entangled web of absurd lies and mystery as he lay "dead" onstage for the remainder of the play.
"The Final Frontiersman," written by Casey Frink and directed by Iliana Rotker-Lynn, provided a comedic picture of a future set in space. Filled with amusing references, such as to the "bottle of 2011 Cabernet," the play transported the audience to a time when malfunctioning space ships and beautiful views of Earth are quite possible. The play maintained a sense of reality at times, however, with cute dialogues between soon-to-be engaged lovers, and complicated relationships with friends back on Earth.
The festival closed with Erin Bannen's "A Jar Full of Feathers," directed by Bethany Wood. It was set in the small, cluttered nursing home room of a grumpy, eccentric old man. When he is visited by a middle-aged woman doing community service time for speeding in a residential area, their conversation spanning the 18-minute performance covers life, death, and all matters in between. Both actors demonstrated remarkable focus and skill as they alone carried the dialogue that was both serious and hilarious.
Almost 200 people were present at the festival over the two days, and based on the laughter, applause, and general audience response, everyone had a great time! If you weren't able to attend this year, consider joining us next spring for another showcase of the promising writers, directors, and actors that this school has to offer.