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New Play Festival focuses on collaboration

BY SAMANTHA GENTRY | MAY 03, 2012 6:30 AM

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The directors, playwrights, designers, and actors involved in the New Play Festival work in a collaborative environment.

UI second-year graduate student Katharine Sherman said she understood she would alter the original vision for her play Ondine while working with the director and actors.

"I knew that it was going to be an extension of what I had dreamed up," she said. "But something I couldn't have dreamed up all by myself."

Ondine will be one of five productions showcased during the New Play Festival. In addition to the staged productions, there will also be readings and discussions. The festival began Monday and will continue through May 6. Admission is free for UI students, $5 for general admission.

Sherman's play will take the stage at 5:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Friday in the Theater Building's Thayer Theater.

In the play, the characters of Ondine and Hildebrand are forced to stay awake for as long as they can because of a curse, so they start to tell their story, which focuses on the past. The audience learns that an alchemist and water spirit meet and fall in love — but their true-love fairy tale turns into a nightmare.

"There are some moments I'm really looking forward to," Sherman said. "But I can't wait to see what all of the design elements bring and how that gets put together with everything else."

UI third-year graduate student Janet Schlapkohl will present her play Collective Amnesia: A Study of Episodic Memory at 5:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Saturday in the Theater Building's Theater B.

The playwright said the piece is structured as a science experiment.

"The audience attends the play as if at a lecture and then is exposed to the play," she said. "However, things break down as memory is blended into present, and spirits real and imagined affect memory."

For Schlapkohl, a variety of inspirations helped to create the original idea of the piece.

She looked at discussions of memory and medical ethics, and she had conversations with a wide range of people.

After each staged performance and reading, a discussion will take place in which a panel of five guests will express their thoughts on the work to the director and playwright.

The common thread that holds pieces in the festival such as Ondine and Collective Amnesia together is collaboration.

UI second-year graduate student LeeAnn Yeckley, the stage manager for the festival, said, "We are striving to develop not only the script but also how we work with each other. The collaborative process is what I think is the best way to do theater; we want to make it a pleasant experience for the group."


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