Paris Junior College will open the eighth annual New Works Festival when “Pyro Playfest: Raise Your Voice!” opens on the Duane Allen Stage in the Ray E. Karrer Theater at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, April 28.
This annual festival features eight short one-act plays centered around the theme “Raise Your Voice!” Playwrights were encouraged to interpret the theme however narrowly or broadly they might choose and the plays are being performed for the first time.
“This is more of a mature Playfest than we’ve done in the past and that fits the theme of the season, ‘Raise Your Voice,’” said Playfest Director and Drama Instructor William L. Walker. “It touches on social issues. Also this year we have more student directors, to give more of them the opportunity to experience the role.”
Walker said he was doing more design and sound work and fellow Drama Instructor Robyn Huizinga was mentoring more because of the higher student engagement.
“This has been a true team effort,” Walker said. “It’s really been quite amazing to watch the students come out of their shells and create. We want to continue that higher engagement in the future. Young theater students don’t know how to speak truth to power and we’re trying to teach them as actors to use their voice. It will give our students more opportunities.”
Drama student Aria Scroggins is one of those trying out directing with “The Fairest of All.” She found it very different from acting.
“Directing is more stressful,” said Scroggins, “as you try to figure out where to put everyone and give orders to people who are no older than me. I like acting, but directing is fun. This play tells the story of a problem of today but it’s fairy tale-ish.”
“I play the owner/operator of a sex trafficking business who can shape-shift different forms,” said Preston Clark, a current Paris High School student who plays Wolf in “The Fairest of All.”
“He comes off as charming initially but by Scene 2 you see that he’s creepy and a terrible person,” said Clark. “The play is about getting the girls out of his grasp.”
Due to limited on-stage seating, reservations for “Raise Your Voice” are strongly recommended. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to save your seat. Thursday through Saturday, April 28-30 the festival begins at 7:30 p.m. and at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 1. The production runs a little less than two hours and has a 10-minute intermission.
Tickets are $15 general admission, $10 senior adults and students, and free with a current PJC faculty, staff, or student ID. Tickets will be paid for by cash or check only at the door at the performance for which reservations were made.
1. “Aware” by Kathleen Elliott – A Reader’s Theatre about raising your voice against bullying. Cast and crew: 1 – Edward Kelley; 2 – Alec Finch; 3 – Robyn Huizinga; 4 – Sara Pacifici; 5 – Jordan White; 6 – Nate Sipe; 7 – Brayden Sheppard; 8 – Connor Kirkley; 9 – Preston Clark; 10 – Frederic Doss; Director – Candace Weist; Stage Manager – Brenna Mills; Designer – Annabel Doss.
2. “The Fairest of All” by Hollis Thompson – Fairy tale themes and characters blend to create an allegory about the horrors of human trafficking. (Content warning: sexual assault, violence, human trafficking, some coarse language.) Cast and crew: Mother – Lisa Martin; Wolf – Preston Clark; Jessica – Hannah Huie; Joan – Ollivia Stiles; Director – Aria Scroggins; Stage Manager – Connor Kirkley; Designer – Sommer Lee.
3. “Just Me” by Dr. Kenneth L. Haley – Isabella faces all the pressures of modern society while exploring the poetry of and life of Emily Dickinson. Cast and crew: Peer Pressure Girl 1 – Kinnadiee Thatcher, Girl 2 – Hannah Huie, and Girl 3 – Sara Pacifici; Convention – Edward Kelley; Change – Jeffrey D. Stewart; Society – Helen Psomas; Desire – Sarah Curtis; Isabella – Jordan White; Director – Andy Johnson; Stage Manager/Designer – William Walker.
4. “A Voice from the Prussian Sea” by Aly Kantor – In a German cellar in 1942, Zelde must make the choice to hide in plain sight or risk losing everything to stay true to herself and raise her voice. (Content warning: some coarse language, themes about The Holocaust and World War II.) Cast and crew: Lara – Annabel Doss; Zelde – Sommer Lee; Marcus – Olen Cox; Director – Nate Sipe; Stage Manager – Edward Kelley; Designer – Sara Pacifici.
5. “Who Killed Sal Mineo” by Bradley Nies – Golden Age of Hollywood actor Sal Mineo gets a chance to tell the story of his life and death, humanizing the headlines. Cast and crew: Sal Mineo – Olen Cox; Actor 1 – Johnny Young; Actor 2 – Andy Johnson; Director – Sarah Curtis; Stage Manager – Sara Pacifici; Designer – Alec Finch.
6. “The Silent Man” by Caleb Gammons – An Elderly Man helps a Young Girl find her way home, and the duo meets with many misadventures along the way. Cast and crew: Old Man – Frederic Doss; Young Girl – Brenna Mills; Husband/Father – Alec Finch; Wife/Mother – Ollivia Stiles; Officer 1/Doctor 1 – Sommer Lee; Officer 2/Doctor 2 – Connor Kirkley; Food Vendor – Carlton Bell; Ensemble 1 – Johnny Young; Ensemble 2 – Preston Clark; Director – Caleb Curtis; Stage Manager – Olen Cox; Designer – Jordan White.
7. “The Tarantula’s Pet Frog” by Rex McGregor – To escape from a ravenous scorpion, a frog seeks refuge in a burrow belonging to a depressed tarantula. Cast and crew: Ethel – Lisa Martin; Ike – Ella Doss; Barb – Annabel Doss; Director – Frederic Doss; Stage Manager – Candace Weist; Designer – Amanda Blouin.
8. “Number 42” by Page Petrucka: A man and woman take a moment to be kind to each other as they work on facing their fears. Cast and crew: Addie – Robyn Huizinga; Murphy – Will Walker; Director – Lisa Martin; Stage Manager – Alec Finch; Designer – Connor Kirkley.
Designers for each play handle set, lighting and sound; costumes were a collective effort on the part of cast and crew.
Photo cutline: In “The Silent Man,” a Young Girl (Brenna Mills, center) talks about taking Old Man (Frederic Doss) home with her as Wife/Mother (Ollivia Stiles) looks on. The play is one of eight plays staged for the first time at PJC.