MFA students to share original work at graduation showcase


Noah Frick-Alofs/Daily Senior Staffer

Actors rehearse for the “Festival of New Work.” The event will showcase original pieces written by MFA students in the Writing for the Screen and Stage program.

Crystal Wall, Reporter

MFA student B.J. Tindal said he used to joke that when coming out to friends and family, the front seat of a car is the best place to do it — because nobody can go anywhere. In his short play “Passenger,” he tests out the theory through the story of a son who contemplates whether to have a difficult conversation with his father.

Tindal’s play is one of 12 pieces that will be featured in the annual “Festival of New Work” this Friday. The event will showcase the work of all graduating MFA students in the Writing for the Screen and Stage program and will take place in Annie May Swift Hall at 7:30 p.m.

Each MFA student submitted a 10-minute play or excerpt for the event, Tindal said. Students were encouraged to submit humorous and enjoyable work to make the night light-hearted. While they were provided with some guidance, Tindal said he had trouble deciding what to showcase.

“For me it was less about trying to find something that represents everything I am as a writer and (more about finding) one thing I think works as a good example of (the) style I like,” Tindal said.

The writers worked with Northwestern and Chicago directors and actors to stage their work. Kristen Field, another writer in the festival, said the pieces are presented as “rehearsed readings” with actors reading off scripts. This setup emphasizes the written work, she said, and will allow writers to focus on story and dialogue rather than props or blocking.

Field said while they are not expecting fully “polished” performances, students still hope to put on an enjoyable show for their audience — which is slated to include a group of professional TV writers.

While MFA students are used to reading each other’s scripts aloud in class, Tindal said they rarely get the chance to see their work performed professionally.

“(It’s) kind of funny because it’s the first time that we get to see everybody’s stuff read the way that it’s meant to be heard — not just us goofing around in our class,” Tindal said.

Priyankar Patra, another featured student, said working with actors is “super helpful” in developing his work. Patra said seeing their interpretations often gives him unexpected insights into his own characters.

Tindal echoed this sentiment, and said hearing his work performed live also exposes lines that do not sound natural or flow correctly.

Field said these workshops are an important part of developing a piece, comparing the process to a “science experiment” to see what is and isn’t working. The public event is a “living, breathing” showcase of the MFA students’ work and a realization of their fast-approaching futures, Field said.

“We’re all getting into that mindset of realizing we’re graduating soon and that we’re not going to be together as this group of 12 very often, if at all, in the future,” Field said. “Being together like this for a whole day where we get to celebrate what we’ve done in the program … is going to be really cool.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @crysticreme