High school troupe gears up for Festival of New Plays

Annual event will consist of 17 short plays all written by current and former students of BTHS

Burlington Township High School seniors Joseph Ruiz and Kelly McFadden rehearse a scene from a play entitled ‘Speed Dating’ by graduate Austin Begley.

By: Stephen Finn

The Sun

The performing arts wing of Burlington Township High School has been buzzing with activity over the past month as students prepare to present not one but 17 new plays over the course of four nights of performances.

The annual Festival of New Plays is divided into two programs. Program A consists of eight plays and will run Saturday, Nov. 17 and Friday, Nov. 30 at 7:30 p.m. Program B consists of nine plays and will run Sunday, Nov. 18 at 2 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m.

“The program has been building and building over the years and we never had a way to get the experience to all of the kids, even the younger kids, in terms of an actual acting experience on stage,” said music teacher Steven Bishop.

According to Bishop, even a large play consists of only around 12 people to a cast and of those 12, only six play a major role. The festival is a way to get as many students involved in the theater program as possible.

“It’s student directed, student written, student acted productions. It’s raw material from a young person’s point of view, topics that mean something to them,” said Bishop.

The plays are written and directed mostly by upperclassmen, but the acting roles are open to all grades. A number of the plays come from alumni of the high school’s theater program who have continued with performing arts after graduating.

A play entitled “Norman Rockwell’s Nightmare” was written by a recent graduate, Mira Desai, and is being directed by current senior Anthony Soto.

“This is a comedy, it’s about this insanely wild family that all have different personalities,” said Soto.

The play revolves around a dinner with the family where mom decides to unplug the wifi and get her family talking. Things go downhill quickly. Soto chose to direct the play because he liked the comedic aspect of the material and wanted to put his own spin on it.

Senior Noah Manno wears a lot of hats in the theater program. For the upcoming festival he is directing the plays “The Shanghai Super Incident” and “A Different Point of View,” and is acting in the plays “The Children Will Smile,” “Dinner for a Few,” “True Crime and Persecution Complex.”

“We get to be the actor, the playwright and the director all in one,” said Manno.

In addition to all of that, Manno co-wrote the play “I am a Brave Homosapien” with junior Leia Gibson.

“It’s really amazing as playwrights for the first time to get to see our castmates and our peers play the roles, see it being put up on stage and see it come to life,” said Gibson.

“We had an idea when we wrote it of what it was going to be and then our peers, the people we go to school with, are showing us things about it that we didn’t even think about,” said Manno. “Once you write a play like this it becomes very special to you, so seeing my friends put this on is very touching.”

Manno and Gibson see these plays as a way to explore topics that resonate with young people today and what they see going on in the world around them.

“The play that we wrote together is about how we try to bring ourselves down and the pressure that society puts on us,” said Gibson. “It’s a teenage boy who’s telling his parents and his sister that he’s gay and meanwhile he has this voice in his head that’s trying to convince him not to do it, that he won’t be accepted.”

According to Bishop, attendees to the festival can expect a broad spectrum of plays ranging in topic and tone.

“We have a wide variety, some serious things, we have some wacky comedies, at any one evening they’re going to get a wide variety of material. Their heartstrings are going to get pulled,” said Bishop.

The festival will take place in the high school’s theater at 610 Fountain Ave. For more information about their program or to purchase tickets visit their website at bthstheater.org.