The original version of this article contained an error and has been changed. See the bottom of the article for additional information.
The furniture of a home is taken down piece by piece – the sofa, the coffee table and the easel and paintings, which once brought fortune and fame to two best friends.
Overnight, this one bedroom apartment located in New York City is transformed into a plain, old house out in an Ohio suburb. Decorated with balloons and crepe paper hanging down from the ceiling, the unit is ready for a party at Macgowan Hall.
This play, titled “Party City,” will be featured in UCLA’s New Play Festival, an event that showcases plays written by UCLA graduate student playwrights. This event, presented by UCLA’s Department of Theater, Film and Television, builds around the thesis projects submitted by the students, whose plays will be brought to life in full production through the collaboration of student directors, actors, stage managers and design teams.
“The event (aims) to fully realize the playwrights’ work,” said Stephen Snyder,a fourth-year theater production and design student and one of the show’s production managers.
This year’s New Play Festival features two plays.
“Assume the Worst,” written by Jeffrey Baker,agraduate student in playwriting, kicked off the festival last Thursday. This week, the festival continues with ”Party City,” written by Brian May, a graduate student in playwriting that debuted yesterday.
Exploring the value of optimism in today’s society, “Party City” depicts a middle-aged man named David and his struggles in dealing with various losses in his life. After he loses his job, divorces his wife and his mother passes away, he decides to throw a party to bring joy and happiness to the remaining members of his family.
“(David) is a pusher, an optimistic pusher,” said Smile Zhou, the director of “Party City” and a graduate student in directing. “He wants everybody to be happy. He tries to cover bad things with happy emotion.”
May said people who are extremely hopeful and optimistic are often viewed as lunatics and contemptible in today’s society as if they want to avoid the truth, an idea that the characters explore in the play.
“(My hope is that) people would not be so ready to demonize someone who seems overly hopeful and optimistic,” he said. “Of course, you need a little moderation with it and I think David in this play might not have moderation with his optimism.”
Zhou said that this play specially utilizes blocking and props to convey figurative meaning while still maintaining the play’s realism.
“At one point in the play, I have David pop all the balloons,” she said. “Like a beautiful dream that is now broken. This is similar to a metaphor but it also has to make sense in real life, it cannot be too symbolic.”
While no specific theme was set for the New Play Festival, there are still similarities shared between the two plays produced, Snyder said.
“Assume the Worst,” the other play featured in the festival, depicts an intricate friendship between two young men who live together in New York City and their struggles to balance their careers, friendship and integrity.
In the play, a young man named Tom pretends to be an artist by using the works of his roommate and friend Jared, a real painter who works in a bookstore. Thus Tom hopes to win the admiration of Kensey, the daughter of a famous art dealer named Marianne.
As Tom keeps busy attending all kinds of social events with Marianne, Jared and Kensey begin to develop feelings for each other, resulting in a series of deceits among the four characters.
Baker said the New Play Festival serves to bring the plays to life as well as offers practical experience for all the members involved in the production.
“It’s one thing to sit in a classroom and to talk about the work. But everyone learns so much when you actually have to perform it,” he said.
Besides the practical experience students can gain, the audience will also benefit from the shows on a personal level, Snyder said.
“Going in to see a show as an audience member forces you to reflect upon your own life and your relationship with your friends,” said Snyder. “These characters (in the plays) are so complex that even amongst the people on the production, we all see different things. It will be exciting to know what the audience sees that we haven’t realized before – everybody is going to learn something different.”
Correction: In the play “Assume the Worst,” the character Tom works to win the admiration of Kensey, the daughter of a famous art dealer.