BY ABIGAIL FRISOLI
“I believe TheatreFest is what makes our program one of the best in the country,” said senior Patrick Robinson, who is the New Works chair of the Theatre Arts Program.
The Princeton Review ranked Sacred Heart University’s Theatre Arts Program as the 18th Best College Theatre Program in the country. One of the reasons why the program is gaining recognition is through its celebration of new works.
TheatreFest is a yearly playwriting festival which takes place through the fall and spring semesters, and it is open to all current undergraduate students on campus.
“[Every show in TheatreFest] is completely written, directed, stage managed, acted [and] produced by undergrad SHU students,” said Robinson.
The festival consists of three rounds: The first round, “Reader’s Theatre,” focuses on script development and all of the shows are read in front of a live audience. Shows that make it through to the second round, “Black Box Staging,” are performed to a live audience with limited technical aspects and simplified sets and staging—without the use of props, costumes or a set. From there, whichever shows have shown the most growth throughout the different stages receive a budget and become fully produced productions.
The shows that go through the TheatreFest process are chosen by the Theatre Arts Program Director, Jerry Goehring. Nineteen shows were submitted this year. After “Reader’s Theatre,” nine of the nineteen shows advanced to the second round, and then two advanced to the final round: “An Immigrant’s Story” by senior John Hartnett and “Artificial Heart” by senior Edward Feeley.
Directed by Arts and Entertainment Editor for the Spectrum, senior Jordan Norkus, “An Immigrant’s Story” tells the story of a young Irish immigrant named John as he makes the expedition from Ireland to New York in the 1800s. Focused on love, family and finding your way, this piece showcases the challenges that face those who set sail toward finding a new home.
“‘An Immigrant’s Story’ is a tale which celebrates family and determination,” said senior Zachary Lane, who plays John in the production. “An Irish immigrant comes to America with absolutely nothing other than his will and hope to make a new life for himself while supporting his family.”
Directed by Robinson and musically directed by Steve Musitano, “Artificial Heart” is the first musical ever to be submitted into Theatrefest. The musical is adapted to the music of American singer-songwriter Jonathan Coulton, who granted Feeley permission to use his work.
“I was able to find specifics of the plot through his music,” said Feeley.
The show is a “jukebox musical”—a musical where the story is written around pre-existing songs. This story revolves around a young man named Cole who is struggling to live his life with an artificial heart, as the name suggests, and follows how he and his closest friends adapt to the new “norm.”
“Grief can make you make interesting choices,” said Feeley. “I knew I wanted to make a musical for a while, but I didn’t really think of this story until I was dealing with a death in the family.”
“An Immigrant’s Story” and “Artificial Heart” are free and open to the public and will run the weekends of April 20-22 and 27-29 in the Little Theatre. Each production will get its own weekend.