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Wagner New Play Festival to Feature 7 World-premiere Works by UC San Diego MFA Playwriting Students

Seven actors performing on stage
"Fifty Boxes of Earth" by Ankita Raturi in the 2022 Wagner New Play Festival (Photo by Russell Chow).

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The Wagner New Play Festival will return to UC San Diego from May 8 to June 10, 2023, showcasing seven new plays written by MFA playwrights in UC San Diego’s Department of Theatre and Dance.

Named in recognition of the generosity of Molli and Arthur Wagner, the Wagner New Play Festival showcases the work of MFA playwrights in collaboration with MFA, Ph.D. and undergraduate directors, actors, designers, stage managers, and dramaturgs. Plays featured in the festival have gone on to be produced off-Broadway and in major regional theatres across the country. The festival draws theatergoers from the UC San Diego community, the local San Diego community, and top theater and film professionals from Los Angeles and nationwide.

“The Wagner New Play Festival showcases some of the most exciting new plays in American theatre,” said Naomi Iizuka, head of the MFA playwriting program. “The festival gives San Diego audiences a first look at cutting-edge work by our world-class MFA playwrights, many of whom like Lauren Yee and Jeff Augustin have gone on to become some of the most well-known and most produced playwrights in American theater. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to see the work of our amazing UC San Diego actors, directors, designers, and stage managers as we all come together to celebrate new stories and new voices.”

This year’s seven full productions are “900 Years” by Preston Choi, “नेहा & Neel” by Ankita Raturi, “Thicker Than…” by Agyeiwaa Asante, “I Found a Zipper” by Milo Cramer, “Boxed” by Mylan Gray, “grippy sock vacation” by Beth Hyland, and “Just the Two of Us” by Phanésia Pharel.

Tickets and complete information can be found on the Department of Theatre and Dance website. Discounted tickets are available for UC San Diego students.

“I Found a Zipper” by Milo Cramer
An alien comes to earth looking for love and ends up at the Costa Mesa Walk-In Clinic where cures are hard to come by and nobody seems to have any answers. In a phantasmagoric world where nothing and no one is what they seem, “I Found A Zipper...” asks: What is love? And is love the answer? Directed by UC San Diego Professor Emerita Kim Rubenstein.
Preview: April 27
Show Dates: May 8-9, May 13, June 10
Theatre: Theodore and Adele Shank Theatre

“Thicker Than…” by Agyeiwaa Asante
Jillian is ready for a change. Her adult son, Tom, is not. Set in a not-too-distant future where a new kind of technology exists that allows anyone to emotionally "uncouple" from anyone in their lives, “Thicker Than…” asks what it means to cut off ties with a loved one and move on with your life. Can you ever truly walk away? And what are the ethical and emotional consequences if you do? Directed by UC San Diego Assistant Professor Lamar Perry.
Preview: May 4
Show Dates: May 11-13, June 8-9
Theatre: Theodore and Adele Shank Theatre

“नेहा & Neel” by Ankita Raturi
Neha (नेहा) fears she has failed to pass her language and culture down to her seventeen-year-old son, Neel (नील). A summer trip to visit colleges could be Neha’s last chance, if only she can get Neel to visit the historic Hope Diamond and witness a piece of Indian history for himself. “नेहा & Neel” asks what we lose with every generation in America, and if it’s ever too late to connect with your roots. Directed by second-year MFA student Rosie Glen-Lambert.
Preview: May 18
Show Dates: May 30, June 3, June 7-8
Theatre: Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre

“900 Years” by Preston Choi
A complicated step-mother with complicated feelings casts a complicated curse on her complicated step-children. A bold and inventive retelling of an Irish fairytale, “900 Years” spans centuries of family drama to explore the consequences of intergenerational trauma and the complex magic of forgiveness. Directed by third-year MFA candidate Cambria Hererra.
Preview: May 25
Show Dates: June 1-2, June 6, June 9-10
Theatre: Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre

WNPF One Acts
Three one-act plays (listed below) by first-year MFA playwrights presented in a single evening.
Preview: May 17
Show Dates: May 19-20, June 9-10
Theatre: Arthur Wagner Theatre

“grippy sock vacation” by Beth Hyland
It's Family Weekend at Hollybrook Knolls Residential Treatment Center. Caroline is visiting her younger sister, high school senior Isabella. Isabella has a lot to say. Caroline doesn't want to hear any of it, but maybe she'll learn the TikTok dance Isabella wants to teach her. A darkly comic exploration of sisterhood and mental illness, “grippy sock vacation” explores the secrets we can't afford to keep. Directed by first-year MFA student Ludmila Cardoso de Brito.

“Just the Two of Us” by Phanésia Pharel
Bean needs her stubborn Haitian American mother to slow down and take her health seriously. Bean's mother needs Bean to get her life together and listen to her advice. A story of two strong women who love each other mightily but don't see eye to eye, “Just The Two of Us” explores the complicated bond between mother and daughter and what it means to live your own version of the American Dream.

“Boxed” by Mylan Gray
It's Ryan's first day at a mysterious office where Black men occasionally fight each other to the death. David, the old-timer, does all he can to stay on top, but can't keep up to save his life. In a world that encourages Black men to kill each other to survive, “Boxed” asks if it's possible for Black men to love each other in the face of state-sanctioned brutality and a culture where lethal violence is an everyday reality.

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