Full disclosure: The New Hampshire has two members on staff participating in the Undergraduate Prize Plays. Executive Editor Sam Rabuck will be playing “Todd” in content editor Tom Z. Spencer’s play “Whatever You Want.”
Each year, a committee in the Department of Theatre and Dance accepts submissions for the John C. Edwards Undergraduate Prize Plays (UPPs). They are a group of three or four plays written by undergraduate students on campus that are also directed, performed and stage-managed by students. Additionally the plays feature their own student-operated tech and lighting crews.
Based on the experiences from members of The New Hampshire’s staff who have seen past performances, the final productions are actually quite good. If you’re a student, faculty, or greater Durham community member and haven’t seen the UPPs, our staff highly recommends you get tickets and go.
In order to understand why, let’s review the facts of the case. At its best, a show gives you a little bit of novelty, something to break up your ordinary day. However, it also gives you a window into someone else’s world. As a roomful of journalists, we are constantly seeking to tell the stories of others. As UNH’s student-run newspaper, we are particularly interested in the worldview, culture and stories of students. It has often been noted that fictional stories can express someone else’s experience in a way a list of facts and times doesn’t capture.
So as a student-journalist, I can’t help but make observations and tell the stories of those who make the UPPs possible.
Let’s start with the playwrights’ submissions. There were 14 student submissions and, from those, three were chosen. That’s awfully selective. From there, the student-directors held auditions. There were preliminary auditions where each prospective actor read a monologue followed by callback auditions. All student-run.
Next, the directors and stage managers set up a rehearsal schedule. The students hold one another accountable. Promotions are done by the students. Students request props, construct the stage, set the lights, do the makeup and every other intricacy and minutia that goes into making a play stage-ready.
As someone acting in the play, I can attest to the hard work that the students put into these plays. It’s a highly complicated effort that has already taken hours of planning, rehearsing and more. Moreover, this is a product entirely made by students and put on for students. The shows are contemporary and embody plots, themes and ideas that college students will find both humorous and relatable.
Just because the UPPs are student-run doesn’t mean they are amateur in any way. There is a level of lightheartedness mixed with professionalism present at the rehearsals and every other component I’ve seldom witnessed during my time at UNH.
Plus, you get an opportunity to see student work from foundation to capstone, from the inception of the writer’s script to the actor’s final bow.
So let the lights come up on a new mini-world for you. See a show in the highest definition, and the most popping 3D available. See if you can find a reflection of your own college experience in the stories that unfold.
The UPPs open April 20. Tickets are available online and at the box office.