Student creations headline at the Upstart festival

Student theatrical creations will become official and for credit for the first time at the Upstart theatre festival. Upstart is a student-run festival which convenes every two years, and puts on plays that are written, directed, designed, acted, and produced solely by students.  

 This year is the first year that the festival is being staged as an official department production. Previously, the Upstart festival was held for students as an extracurricular activity, but the theatre and performance program is now offering students formal credits for their participation that contribute towards their drama degree.

The festival this year includes three plays: “The Rocket Man,” adapted from Ray Bradbury’s short story of the same name, by playwright Kelly Hornung and directed by Meghan Landers; “Out of the Box,” written by Jenn Addesso and directed by Mollie Garrett; and “Phone Book,” written by Beuerle and Emma Mann, and directed by Sam Beuerle.

The drama and speech communication department has been preparing for Upstart for the past couple years.  Playwrights went through formal presentations in October and November, but have been working on the plays for about one year.

A play development workshop was hosted Jan. 27 where the team worked  on the play,  “Phone Book.” It involved a reading of the play and a presentation, in which designers presented their preliminary ideas on various aspects of the play such as the set, lighting, props, and costumes. Afterwards, the team went through the script looking for problems and asking questions such as, “What is the character’s intention? What are the different ways the aspects of the play are coming across?” in an effort to improve the script. 

Toby Malone, supervising dramaturg, stated that this process is “a fairly traditional process in traditional theatres, and this is the first time we’ve brought this process to the department.”

The play development process, as described by Chelsea Vanoverbeke, the scenographer for “Out of the Box,” is “a very good thing to have for the department, because it’s innovative, it’s new, and students can get scripts formally workshopped. It’s a very good process of seeing a play being developed, and all of the time that goes into it and how everyone works as a collaborative group, not just the actors and the playwright, but also the designers, the supervisors, and supervising professors as well. So it’s a very immersive experience.”

Jessica Blondin, head of publicity, stated “aside from supporting the talent of the university’s theatre program and enjoying a night at the theatre, this year’s festival engages the audience in multiple topics regarding today’s society. Whether discussing loneliness and isolation, letting go of the past, or other moments in life, the festival relates to the audience and presents them with these themes in new ways. The festival aims to bring life to innovative theatre and this year is no exception.”


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