playGround showcases new and innovative student works

Adventuresome theatre-goers can satisfy their craving for the out-of-the-ordinary at playGround, Theatre @ York’s annual fringe festival, running Feb. 6 to 9 in the Joseph G. Green Studio Theatre.

Well-known for its uncurbed spirit and risk-taking mindset, playGround showcases new, innovative student works – experimental plays, plays-in-progress and promising performance pieces. The works are conceived, written, performed and produced by up-and-coming playwrights, directors, designers and actors from all levels of York’s undergraduate theatre program.

Now in its 15th season, playGround is mounted alongside Theatre @ York’s mainstage productions. An incubator for student creativity, presentation and production development,

playGround tests the terrific talents of young theatre artists as they learn to do a lot with a little, from the ground up. For patrons, the festival offers a glimpse into the creative process and the opportunity to experience brand-new works in the making.

The 12 productions in this year’s playGround will be presented in two alternating series. Here’s a snapshot of what’s in store:

Series A

David, written by Natalie Frijia and directed by Dahlia Katz, is about an eight-year-old boy who does not make up stories. The monster is coming and he must think quickly to save his family. David needs help, but will his babysitter believe him in time?

Master of the Centre Ring draws its inspiration from fond childhood memories of attending the circus. However, this circus is different. The tent is not just a place for tricks and entertainment, and even the performers do not know what will happen next. What transpires here is no act, and what you witness at centre stage is much more than a mere memory.

Oddity and the Box, written by Susan Rezai and co-directed by Rezai and Caitlin Fysh, is a play without words, capturing moments that are not spoken but felt. The play follows the character, Oddity, as she searches to find someone to breathe with, struggling between her love of her own world and her desire to connect with others.

Raisin the Spirits, written by Mike Arajs and directed by Nathaniel Brettle, is a dark comedy about the curious ways individuals deal with a loved one’s death. When confronted with a death, we are inclined to dwell on our own life. This production invites us to forget about ourselves and instead pay homage to the deceased in style.

Manifest Content, written and directed by Chris Rouse, is a dark epic of tangled dramatis (im)personae steeped in alchemy, allegory and burlesque funereal charm. The show evokes fractured elements of the playwright’s personality as he pursues such questions as: "What is left of the artist after they walk on stage? What is real? Who exists, and who is merely manifest content?"

Fantastic Extravagance is a one-woman show written and performed by Lara Stokes and directed by Kalene Tilson. When her interviewer fails to show up, insomniac novelist Eden Montgomery wreaks havoc on the audience. The piece explores the writer’s realm of sanity and how it fluctuates when the character takes over.

Series B

A Nice Story, written by Natalie Frijia and directed by Taylor Graham, asks the question: "Santa Claus: myth, lie, scar or a job well done?"

Elevator Music is about three people trapped inside an elevator at a ritzy hotel. What could possibly happen? With a non-existent 13th floor, pretty much anything, as Mike, Chester and Sandra experience close encounters of a third kind. This play was collectively written by seven student playwrights and co-directed by Adam Kirkham and Virginia Shulist.

In Her & Hysteria, love is a minefield and you’d better watch your step. Written and directed by Jawn Taboika, the play perverts love through mis-communication, misinterpretation and misinformation. As the story segues from the original sinful couple, Adam and Eve, to modern romance, the audience is invited to ponder the question, "What side are you on?"

In Everything Must Go, directed by Victoria Kucher, Jerry’s and Sam’s dream wedding has turned into a nightmare of bills and third notices The play spotlights the couple’s attempts to put a value on the hodgepodge of gifts they have collected over the years from their relationship at a Saturday morning garage sale.

Anatomy of a Train Wreck, written and performed by M. Hague, tells the story of a woman who remembers the marriage of her parents on the night before her own wedding. Just when she is about to take one of the biggest steps forward in her life, she must make a decision: whether to get on the train and ride into into a risky future, or remain stationary and safe.

How can our dreams become reality, if reality is constantly crushing our dreams? In Dream of Bob Dylan, written and directed by Borna Radnik, a young man follows his dream despite the odds and the bitter truth of reality. Inspired by the music and life of folk legend Bob Dylan, the play serves both as a comedy and social commentary.

playGround is staged nightly Feb. 6 to 9, at 7:30pm with matinees Feb. 7 and 9, at 1pm in the Joseph G. Green Studio Theatre in the Centre for Film & Theatre on York’s Keele campus. Admission is $5 and tickets are available at by calling ext. 55888 or through the Theatre @ York Box Office Web site.

This article was submitted to YFile by Mary-Lou Schagena in the Faculty of Fine Arts.