USC’s Brand New Theatre kicked off its One Act Play Festival on Thursday with the premieres of three one act plays — each written, directed and performed by USC students.
“We’re the only student group on campus that’s doing this,” BNT President Jack Eletto, a junior majoring in theatre, said. “[We’re] allowing people to put their work up on stage.”
The festival aims to provide playwrights with a platform to experiment and workshop their pieces. By giving them the opportunity to gauge audience responses, playwrights will receive feedback necessary to improving their works.
“They really would not have another outlet for that before they got into the professional world,” Hailey Kragelj, a junior majoring in theatre and narrative studies, said. “We get to provide directors and actors with the space and production elements for them, so it’s really all about their work.”
For their fall festival, BNT received about 20 one act plays to review. Its board read through each entry and discussed them with a play selection committee — BNT’s board said the group was looking for plays with different themes to ensure a diverse lineup.
“Animals,” written by Marisa Caddick, a junior majoring in theatre and narrative studies, chronicles the lives of two queer characters as they pursue a relationship. Assistant director Hamza Mirza, a junior majoring in economics, said the play intends to contrast homophobia in 1978, when the play is set, to the present day.
“For anyone to even think [LGBTQ people are] a separate entity is bizarre because we’ve come so far,” Mirza said. “It’s a wake up call — if you do think like that, you’re stuck back then.”
In addition, director Casey Gardner, a sophomore majoring in theatre, said the message of finding love is relatable to students — even if the play doesn’t end on a hopeful note.
“Even though this story is an LGBTQ story, I think it’s really important to establish [that] these characters are real people and that this is not a gay love story, it is a love story,” Gardner said.
Senior theater major Ithalia Price wrote and directed “Generaciónes,” a play that deals with navigating Latinx identity after moving from Mexico to the United States. Price weaves Latin music throughout to show to emphasize the characters’ cultural identities.
“It’s bringing together these two worlds of what it means to be Latin on one side of the border to the other sides of the border, keeping your Latinidad and being proud of who you are,” Price said.
Price emphasized the misconceptions some people have about Mexican immigrants, and she hopes that her play will break stereotypes by representing the immigrant experience more holistically.
“Sina and the Eel” by Keigan Lee, a sophomore majoring in theatre, is inspired by and adapted from a Polynesian myth. To pay respect to the culture without appropriating it, the directors opted for a more stylized and nuanced approach.
“It’s a little more kids getting around to tell a story than it is us trying to realistically portray Polynesia on stage,” director and junior theatre and journalism student Jessica Doherty said.
Doherty said taking this approach to the material gave the team freedom to pull off some of the technical elements. For example, the play sees a character become an eel and takes place in different locations — including a beach, a forest and a house.
“I enjoy those kind of challenges … I think it’s really fun to expand the horizons of what theatre can do,” Doherty said.
The festival will run through Sunday. Tickets are free and available on Eventbrite.