Alumni show works in progress at experimental theater festival

Students and alumni rehearse

Audiences have a chance to witness the art of shaping and refining theatrical works during VoxFest, a series of alumni productions that began on Wednesday and will continue through the weekend. All of the works are in different stages of development, and many do not yet have endings.

Each performance will be accompanied by a workshop, where members of Vox Theater, students and faculty collaborators will contribute to the editing process.

Vox Theater, the company running the festival, was founded last year by Matt Cohn ’08, Thom Pasculli ’05 and Kate Mulley ’05 to provide alumni working in theater with a network similar to those at many other colleges.

“There was a void,” Cohn said. “People wanted there to be a theater like Vox, and we just kind of stepped in.”

Last summer, Cohn, Pasculli and Mulley assembled a small group of actors to hold theater workshops. This year, they return to campus for a full-fledged festival with more than 50 artists in tow.

Alumni produced all seven of the festival’s presentations. “Vox Barter,” the opening event on Wednesday night, offered short performance pieces in which the audience actively participated.

Stephanie Abbott-Grobicki ’15, who attended the show, said she appreciated the wide range of theatrical works.

“It was a cool way for the audience to get to interact in very different ways in the same space, and for performers to get the chance to break out to do some really interesting and creative things,” Abbott-Grobicki said.

Tonight’s performances include “By So Falling,” which explores modern mythology with the parallel stories of two people who are visited by aliens, and “Jimmy Carter’s Table,” a work of historical fiction about the former president’s dealings with a small industrial town.

Tomorrow, Beth Blatt ’79 will present her musical “Oneida,” about the rise and fall of New York’s Oneida community. Director Marina McClure ’04 said the show will challenge the audience to expand its perspectives and leave judgment at the door.

“Strange Bare Facts,” directed by Kyle Ancowitz ’98, tells the true story of medical officer J. Alison Glover alongside a fictional contemporary account of a female surgeon at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

“Judg[ment(al)],” a sketch comedy show written by Karisa Bruin ’05 and directed by Mike BrunleIb, tackles the idea of making assumptions.

In an epilogue to the festival, McClure will direct a showing of Bruin’s “Hamlet and the Ghost,” episodic installations that examine power and crowd mentality in “Hamlet” through digital media.

“It’s going to be exciting to present it publicly here to students who may have familiarity with Hamlet’ but may not have experienced this kind of expression of a theater art performance,” McClure said.

Ancowitz said he is looking forward to involving actors in the process for the first time.

“Having actors in the workshop is always useful,” Ancowitz said. “When you work on a play from the point of view of a playwright or director, you’re kind of looking at the play from the top down. Actors interpret the characters and can add commentary.”

Cohn noted that because alumni pursue various kinds of theater after graduating, VoxFest provides everyone the opportunity to work with styles they are less familiar with.

“It exposes all of the artists involved to a wide variety of aesthetics,” he said.

McClure described VoxFest as a “win-win” for everyone involved. She said that reconnecting alumni strengthens their art as well as their relationships with the College.

Members of a theater class on performance work with the visiting artists, and student actors have the opportunity to join some productions’ casts.

“It’s an opportunity for current students to collaborate with alums who are in the early to mid-stages of their theatrical careers,” Cohn said.

Alumni said they look forward to seeing how the company grows.

“I’m really excited to be one of the early members of Vox and to see where it goes in future years,” McClure said. “It can only grow and be a beautiful thing for everyone involved.”

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