In Students, Theatre

A small group of theatre students brings six new plays to life

In a world of remakes and adaptations, Microburst Theatre offers fresh, new work to BYU audiences. The showcase will feature six short plays by student playwrights, each performed for the first time when Microburst opens on Oct. 18.

“Audiences will see six completely unique stories that have been woven into one performance,” said Daniel Barton, who is the assistant director of the showcase in addition to being one of the playwrights. “It’s fun to see an entire piece that was written and created here at BYU. Totally unique, never before seen, nor ever able to be seen again.”

A year in the making, preparation for the showcase began in the fall of 2017 when students in theatre professor George Nelson’s beginning playwriting class each wrote a 10-minute play over the course of the semester. Six of these plays were selected during winter semester to be put into production with a small team of students. The writers—Daniel Barton, Katelyn Anderson, Susanna Bezooyen, Mariah Eames, Greta Gebhard and Mandarin Wilcox—remained involved and attentive during the rehearsal process.

This is different than anything I’ve done before because it’s so collaborative,” said Emily Moore, one of six student actors covering all roles in the showcase. “We work with the playwrights through changes being made to the scripts. The rehearsal process has been a little quicker than I’m used to, so it’s been a fun challenge to take on.”

Not only does Microburst give audiences an exclusive chance to see new material, it provides the student playwrights with an intimidating, but much-needed, opportunity to see their work performed and to observe audience reactions.

“Hopefully what the playwrights will gain is the confidence to see their work on its feet and get a positive response to what they write,” said Nelson, who is directing the showcase while continuing to mentor and assist the student writers. “There’s just nothing like that to help a young playwright make a change, to cross over the bridge. What’s really fun for me is having the playwrights sit right next to me and to watch the smiles on their faces as they see it all come to life.”

“We focus a lot on the process so the playwrights can see their work,” added Barton. “We’ve had multiple revisions from all the playwrights as they see what works and what doesn’t. But the scripts are in a great place and the actors have been so on top of it. They memorized extremely fast, which helps us really dive into the specific intentions and juicy emotions of these stories.”

While all six stories will be relatable to a broad audience, many elements are particularly relevant to BYU students. “The writers ask great questions through their pieces and explore characters that audiences might recognize in themselves or their friends,” said Barton. “We showcase short plays, but the depth of relationships and choices that have to be made leaves you wanting to see more. It’s kind of like a cliffhanger. I want to see more of these characters’ lives.”

Moore, who has the rare opportunity as an actor to originate two of these new characters, appreciates the variety in the plays, many of which deal with some form of loss or dilemma. “Each tells a different story from a different perspective,” she said. “I hope audiences leave with a little more love and understanding of people and the different walks of life that they come from.”

“I think audiences will enjoy the freshness of new work,” said Nelson. “For me, they’re going to enjoy the integrity of these plays and the heart that’s in them. I think it’s valuable that our writers can learn how to make the characters real. That’s what it’s all about.”

Microburst Theatre runs in the Nelke Theatre in the Harris Fine Arts Center Oct. 18, 19 and 20 at 7:30 p.m., with a matinee at 2 p.m. on Oct. 20. Tickets are available in person at the BYU Ticket Office in the HFAC or Marriott Center, by phone at 801.422.2981 or online at byuarts.com.  

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