The New Works Festival, a long-time staple of the University of Alberta Drama Department, takes flight for a 15th year with six new one-acts.
Running Feb. 3 to 8 at the Timms Centre for the Arts, it showcases the work of budding student playwrights and continues to stimulate creativity.
With the help of a student artistic team – director, cast, designer and production crew – the roughly 45-minute works are featured as professional productions.
Selections extend across the genres as complete productions. The one-acts are open to any topic, and offer original and cutting edge stories and performances that may slice against the grain.
Judging by past festivals, it is a mistake to underestimate them or write them off as fledgling amateurs. These emerging playwrights are voices worth hearing. They are the voices of tomorrow.
This year two of those distinct voices – Josh Languedoc, 26, and Julian Stamer, 22, are from St. Albert.
Languedoc, a Fringe Festival regular (Case Study, Question, Kazoodles), is debuting Killing Earl, a suspenseful comedy loosely inspired by the Dixie Chicks mega hit Goodbye Earl.
Ironically, Languedoc likes the song but is not a huge fan of the Chicks.
“I really don’t remember what sparked the play. The song is catchy and I was listening to it and at about the same time I saw a play about revenge and murder. I started working on a character and changed the situation,” said Languedoc.
In Killing Earl, three girlfriends have been close friends for life. Looking for adventure, Mary (Lisa Dawn Daniels) and Anne (Brianna Kolybaba) head to California. Wanda (Cheryl Vandergraf) opts to stay home and run the family business, a general store.
“She’s not the most assertive person. She has a goofy sense of humour and she’s sweet, trusting and caring.”
Along comes Earl, a mystery man who appears lost, awkward and bumbling.
“He’s educated and likes using his hands. He was raised on an acreage and is grounded. He’s sweet with Wanda but he has a temper and a drinking problem.”
But Languedoc warns it’s not a straightforward man-beats-woman-and-gets-killed story.
“There’s a twist at the end. It’s as if somebody is about to walk on a rug and it gets pulled out from under them.”
On the other hand, Julian Stamer’s F***, Marry, Kill shifts setting to a karaoke bar where six friends gather for a reunion that builds into a claw-baring fight.
As the relationships schism and fracture, Mr. Jefferson the bartender looks on with amusement and even prods the emotionally taut friends.
In this comedy, Anna, (Cristina Fallavollita), the waitress has dated Marcus (Silverius Meteri) for six months. She’s a big fan of Disney and dreams of a happily-ever-after relationship.
Marcus is a generally easygoing guy who enjoys joking around. But he also has an angry side and doesn’t like to reveal his emotions. When Anna insists on showing public displays of emotion, the fights start and keep escalating drawing in the entire circle.
The other four productions include a modern-day sci-fi, a fantasy and two dramas.
In Liam Salmon’s Silence and the Machine, the lines between technology and consciousness become blurred. Two women sit side-by-side. One is human. One is artificial intelligence trying to define her personhood in the face of patents that state her entire existence belongs to someone else.
Gianmarco Visconti’s Grey Matters looks at how the death of a loved one affects people. Three months have passed since the death of Adam’s sister. He is spiraling into grief. In a desperate attempt to help, friends drag him to a party. But no one can anticipate that a well-meaning gesture can bring about destruction.
An Inside Sick also explores a path of desperation. Jordan Sabo has crafted a story about a young man seeking a therapist’s help from a life of repression, guilt and loss rooted in a dysfunctional family.
Maggie Paul takes a lighter approach in The Princess and the Sandman, a fantasy that sees the Sandman falling in love with a dream-loving princess. Through a curse he is forced to remain in her dream forever and the results are chaotic. This playlet examines love and friendship in a world where danger may be lurking everywhere.
Killing Earl, Silence and the Machine, and Grey Matters run on Feb. 3, 5, and 7 at 7 p.m. and Feb. 8 at 1 p.m. An Inside Sick, The Princess and the Sandman, and F***, Marry, Kill run Feb. 4, 6, 8 at 7 p.m. and Feb. 7 at 1 p.m.
New Works Festival
University of Alberta Drama Department
Feb. 3 to 8
Timms Centre for the Arts
87 Ave. and 112 St.
Tickets: $15/regular; $10/students, seniors. Call 780-420-1757 or online at tixonthesquare.ca