Contributed by Megan Washausen
As the lights of the small black box theater dimmed, the audience was greeted by three polka-dotted monsters as they crept out from beneath the bed in the center of the stage.
These monsters were characters in junior musical theater major Scott Joy’s one-act play, “Monstrous Problems.” The play was the first in Surfacing’s Emerging Playwrights Festival, which included 34 student actors, seven plays. An approximately 170 member audience was in attendance. The festival was April 13-14, on the Emerson Studio Theater stage in the Loretto-Hilton Center.
Originally, the student organization Literature Club selected and produced a single one-act play for the annual festival. However, Surfacing pulled away from Lit Club in 2008. It became a student organization devoted to producing student-written plays on campus.
Under the direction of the group’s current executive producer and president senior Seanna Tucker, the organization added new events this year. They added the Musical Review, an open mic night, a cabaret and a performance of the Vagina Monologues. Students were also given an opportunity last fall to hear their plays read aloud prior to the festival’s submission date.
“We added the staged readings in the fall so that writers could get their work out as a way to expand, be able to rewrite and maybe submit the plays that they submitted to us earlier in their more perfect stage,” Tucker, English and scriptwriting major, said.
The first act consisted of four plays:
— “Monstrous Problems,” a children’s play about a boy and a monster both in need of companionship,
— “Heckling,” a comedy about two older women who heckle the passerby in their town from the porch where they sit,
— “End of the World,” a romantic comedy during which love is rekindled under the pretense that the world is ending and
— “Don’t Look Back,” a drama about two couples walking the fine line between love and hell
“With this year’s lineup, it’s just a lot of different things,” Tucker said. “We have so many different styles of plays, so many different themes.”
The second act opened with: — “The Dangers of Ladies Reading Novels,” a comedy about the trials and tribulations that accompany time travel,
— “Communion,” a reminder of how difficult it is to make a high school relationship last through college and
— “The Tea Did It,” which took place in the middle of the actor’s nightmare, the dream of being in a play with no knowledge of the lines.
“I’ve always loved (the festival), but I think this year was especially great,” Mariah Nadler, junior creative writing major, said. “I think the actors and the writing, and the directing all kind of meshed together and there was really good writing this year.”
Senior human rights major Caity Rautenstrauch has participated in the festival twice before. She said she refused to pass up her final opportunity to act in the festival. Rautenstrauch accepted the role of Opal in “End of the World,” a one-act by senior English major Aleena Yunuba Hammack.
“I just love it. I love that Surfacing is a chance for (non theater majors) to do some performing,” Rautenstrauch said. “This is going to sound cheesy, but I like the ability to be someone else, to tell a different story. It’s really exhilarating, I think.”
Rautenstrauch’s mother Mary traveled from Las Vegas to see her daughter perform on opening night.
“I’ve loved (watching her act) since she was little,” Mary Rautenstrauch said. “Now that she’s a senior, I’m so afraid that this is the last time I’m going to see her act, so I’m going to go see all three shows. But, you know, that’s the way live theater is — you can see all three shows and it’s going to be different. That’s what I love about live theater.”
As both an actor and director in the show, junior film production major and artistic director of Surfacing Jonathon Musgrave hoped the festival would evoke a reaction from the audience.
“I just really want people to be entertained, to make people think, laugh, to make them feel something,” Musgrave said. “That’s why we’re doing all of this, and to get sucked into the different worlds of these seven different plays; that’s the whole experience of theater and I’d say it’s successful if we can achieve that.”