One week each year, Carnegie Mellon's School of Drama takes an intermission from classes while student directors, designers, actors, technicians and playwrights collaborate on more than 40 productions of their own in "Playground: A Festival of Independent Student Work."
Now in its fifth year, the festival includes dramatic and musical performances, films, installations, mural projects and light shows in the Purnell Center for the Performing Arts. All events are free and open to the public.
"Playground represents a singular opportunity for students in the School of Drama. We encourage them to explore, collaborate and commit to experiences in theatre-making as diverse as their own passions and preoccupations," said Elizabeth Bradley, head of the School of Drama and creator of Playground.
She added, "The empowerment and sense of community that Playground week creates is exhilarating for everyone who participates or attends. Drama students often expressed the opinion that Playground provided the context for the most valuable learning that they did during their time in the program."
Playground provides an outlet for the creativity and innovation of independent student-produced work. Students propose projects to a committee of faculty members and student representatives, and accepted projects are provided with designated rehearsal time, space and a performance venue. Productions are limited to 45 minutes.
Students are free to consult with faculty as well as use costumes, set designs, materials and use other resources on hand for this festival.
This year's plays draw students from all disciplines in the College of Fine Arts, from drama and art to music. Some of the plays and musicals are new works written by students at other universities. The musical "The Count of Monte Cristo" was written by Ithaca College graduate Brett Boles and is being produced by musical theatre and School of Music students. "Zerafall," by Columbia University student Daniel Feldman, takes place on the eve of Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) in 1938 Berlin.
Other projects include a medley of short films and "Hellmouth," an installation comprised of recycled soda cans and based on the medieval hell mouth, a doorway to hell. Student composer Joe Etzine and a musical theatre student created "BlackMale," a one-man cabaret.
Playground productions have often traveled to different venues across the country. A Los Angeles performance of "The Salesman" was described by the "LA Weekly" as "smartly choreographed." "Housetaurant" has been performed at New York University, The Ashland Ten Minute Play Festival, The Short Leaps Festival in San Francisco and The Kennedy Center's National College Theatre Regional Festival.
Tickets are on sale now. For more information, call the School of Drama box office at 412-268-2407.