Clark Theatre Rehearsal - Clark University

Budding playwrights see their work onstage in biennial festival

October 27, 2017

About a decade ago, Theatre Arts Professor Gino DiIorio had an idea while reading work submitted by students in his Playwriting class.

“I kept saying, 'This isn’t bad. We should get it up on its feet.' Then I thought, why don’t we put it up on its feet?”

And the biennial New Play Festival was born.

The fifth festival, which begins Tuesday, Oct. 31, features performances of six fully staged, student-written plays.

The cast of "Us," a play by Toni Armstrong '19, 
rehearses while director Themal Ellawala '17 takes 

A playwright himself, DiIorio says that while play readings are nice, a staged production is invaluable. “Let’s memorize it and see how it fails, or see how it works. That’s where the playwright really learns.”

In its first year, the festival included nine full-length plays. This year, there are six. Each has its own creative staff: producer, director, costume and set designers, and stage manager. The plays are done in repertory, two plays a week, with each getting a run of three performances.

Play Fest offers “different levels of work,” DiIorio says. “They’re not perfect, but that’s the whole idea. The playwrights get to see their work on stage.” Three of this year’s playwrights are recent graduates; all of the plays were developed last year, and usually emerge from DiIorio’s playwriting class.

The plays this year center on themes of relationships, death and family, with “two plays that are farcical to the extreme,” DiIorio says. “You just never know where the writers are going to go.”

“Colleges have become the generators of new plays, and every other year we dedicate ourselves to doing new stuff,” he says. And the experience for students draws from Clark's LEEP (Liberal Education and Effective Practice) curriculum, in that students apply what they've learned in the classroom to a real-world project, he adds.

“They really need to see what it’s like to build a show on a shoestring budget, to work with other shows in the same space,” DiIorio explains. “Writers, directors, stage managers, actors, costumers, and set designers all thrown in the deep end.” 

Clark is the only U.S. college that has anything like the New Play Festival, DiIorio says.

The Clark University Players Society (CUPS) is a co-sponsor of the festival. Natalie Wolpert ’18, a theatre arts major and CUPS vice president, says that each play’s producer is a CUPS veteran, “which is extremely helpful.”

Wolpert says the producers are trying to create a community among all of the plays, not just within each of them, since everyone is working toward the same goal. CUPS has sponsored a number of events to bring all six casts and crew members together.  

“By the end of it you’ve got this big family of 75 to 100 people, who have done all of this together,” DiIorio says. “It’s a communal, team-building experience. We’re really proud of it.”

All plays will be performed in the Michelson Theatre of the Little Center. Performances begin at 7:30. General admission tickets are $5, or free with college I.D.

The plays include:


Oct. 31 – Nov. 2
Written by Alyssa Spencer '17
Directed by Katheryn Howell


Nov. 3 – Nov. 5
Written by Toni Armstrong '19
Directed by Themal Ellawala '17

The Lavenders

Nov. 7 – Nov. 9
Written by Emily Denny '17
Directed by Amelia Mohr '17


Nov. 10 – Nov. 12
Written by May Feynman '18
Directed by Tyler Terriault '16

Bert's Cardiac Arrest

Nov. 14 – Nov. 16
Written by Samson Martin '18
Directed by Eliana Stanislawski '17

Glass Walls

Nov. 17 – Nov. 19
Written by Bob Waters '17
Directed by Katheryn Howel

Top: The cast of "Reunion," a play by Alyssa Spencer  '17, rehearses.