Ah, the theater!

The department of theater and dance will be presenting the New Plays Festival this coming weekend. The New Plays Festival, which premiered last weekend, is composed of four plays written, directed and starring students. This is the festival’s second year.

“I don’t think playwrights last year understood how great it was until they saw it,” said organizer and theater professor Elizabeth Kitsos-Kang. She emphasized that the performances are a valuable opportunity for students to see a premiere of their work, particularly if they go on to publish the shows.

Kitsos-Kang was hired as a theater professor by the University 12 years ago after spending two years organizing skits for Colonial Inauguration. In addition to writing children’s scripts and sketches for CI, she is the co-founder of the Educational Theater Company, a children’s theater company offering after-school classes and summer camp in Arlington, Va.

The New Plays Festival started as a “reading series,” a way for the playwrights to showcase their work on stage. And with participants’ enthusiasm, she said, the festival evolved into a “bare-bones theater project,” resembling “something between a reading and a production.”

The first run of the festival was a success last weekend, Kistos-Kang said, noting that the shows had full houses on Friday and Saturday. The festival, she said, created a forum for the English and dramatic literature department to work with student actors and playwrights. “It was a collective effort,” between writers, faculty and performers, she said.

Building off last year’s success, the New Plays Festival was approached eagerly by interested students this year. About 30 plays from various playwriting classes were submitted for inclusion. Four shows – two comedies and two dramas – were selected. The shows were cast last spring, and Kitsos-Kang worked with playwrights over the summer on rewrites.

“It gives an opportunity to create the first sculpted experience of this story,” she said.

She emphasized that the student focus of the New Plays Festival has generated attention and promoted interest and collaboration across departments.

“These plays are new. There is greater freedom in performing them; there are no preconceived notions,” she said.

All four plays focus on conflicts of high school and college students. Themes range from death to boy bands. She said that in the show titled “A Breathless September” actors took lyrics written by the playwright and actually composed a song.

“It’s a labor of love,” Kitos-Kang said.

There will be a post-show discussion after Thursday’s performance, and audience members will be able to hear about the process of putting on the festival.

The New Plays Festival will be held in the Marvin Center Betts Theater this Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

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