Producing theater is no cheap or easy feat, but that didn’t stop five Miami University students from teaming up last fall to launch a new theater company in Oxford.
New Wave Theatre Company is an entirely student-run theatrical production group adjacent to Miami. Established in the fall of 2019, the group's mission is to produce a series of student-written and student-produced shows each year, with the goal of championing new works and new voices among the Miami community.
Founding members include Austin Lamewona, a senior marketing and arts management co-major, Molly Boozell, a senior theater major, Avery Lynn Pinta, a junior music education major, Kyle Carson, a senior theater major and Worley Stidham, a junior theater and arts management co-major. The five of them had one goal in mind: provide a platform where students can understand all facets of what it takes to produce a theater production in a professional setting.
Lameowna is no stranger to self-produced theater, having directed and produced an original play with the Cincinnati Fringe Festival the summer before his freshman year, as well as a show called Octets his sophomore and junior year.
“With my experience, I’ve learned a lot about what it’s like to self-produce in the industry, and it’s a valuable experience that students don't get in the classroom: learning how to be arts managers, learning how to handle money, learning how to design a show even if that not something you’ve done before,” Lamewona said.
In their first semester, New Wave produced a group-devised comedy show, Rian Sondag’s Comedy Revue, as well as the full-length play Don’t Call Him That written by Molly Boozell.
Selecting works for this semester was a combination of directly approaching student writers, having student writers approach New Wave and taking in submissions.
This spring, New Wave planned to produce three events: a staged reading of the musical The Underground, a showcase titled “New Wave New Works,” featuring the works of two student playwrights and a full production of the musical A Beginner’s Guide to High School Dances. However, due to the current pandemic, the performances have been canceled, with the possibility to resume production in the coming academic year.
The Underground, a musical written by Lamewona and Brooke Vespoli, a senior finance and theater major, portrays a war-ridden, dystopian society where art and music have been outlawed in order to focus on the necessities of life. There is a secret society of musicians called “The Underground”, but when the government discovers them, they set out to take them down from the inside. A cast of students put together the staged reading in February with only a week of rehearsals.
“New Wave New Works,” planned for April 9-11, intended to feature a collection of new plays: Trip by junior theater and language arts education major Liv Gorom and The Perfect Match by sophomore theater major Annie Watson.
Trip is a 15- minute drama depicting 1950s housewives tripping acid.
“I wrote for the theater department’s production of Echoes of Miami and I liked it so much I wanted to do it again,” Gorom said. “I had been trying to think of good ideas and riding home for J-term last December, I thought: you know what would be a really funny play? What about 1950s housewives doing drugs?”
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In the process of developing the script and researching the 1950s, she learned that doctors in the era engineered and tested acid on citizens without their knowledge, making the play based on real events.
Watson’s The Perfect Match is a light-hearted and funny collection of original skits where dating apps come to life.
“I wrote The Perfect Match for a junior year showcase in high school,” Watson said. “After recently digging up the original script, I thought it was a solid idea, just poorly written, so I revamped it.”
Like Gorom, Watson has minimal playwriting experience.
“I’ve never written a full-length play, but I have written several short pieces. I’m primarily an actor, so being behind the scenes as a playwright was definitely a new and strange experience,” Watson said.
A Beginner's Guide to High School Dances by sophomore geology major Kevin Woeste follows an upcoming homecoming dance in which seniors Ryan, Amber, Lexie, and Brad rush to find the perfect date. Little do they know, they're getting some help from the most powerful student in the school: the gossip queen, Susan. The show is filled with hijinks, schemes, romance and upbeat music.
Despite event cancellations, New Wave is looking to resume production for Trip, The Perfect Match and A Beginner's Guide to High School Dances in the coming academic year.
“We had meetings every day to readjust our plans as the university continued to update us on the COVID-19 situation,” Lamewona said. “We’re hoping to move forward with staging our productions next year.”
Anna Skalicki, sophomore studio art major involved in A Beginner's Guide to High School Dances is looking forward to production in the fall.
“I’m trying to keep positive about the situation,” Skalicki said. “This only means we have the chance to come back stronger.”