‘Nuevas Voces’ brings the theater back to NEIU’s Stage Center Theater
After almost a year and a half immersed in silence and the curtain drawn, the applause and magic of the theater returned to the stage at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) and they did it by the hand of Nuevas Voces, with the three winning pieces of this edition.
Nuevas Voces is a 10-minute festival and competition founded in 2017 by former NEIU student and professor Jim Blair, which encourages the entire university to channel their creativity through theater as a form of artistic expression and reflective of the realities facing NEIU students and their communities.
In this edition, the winning works were revealed: “Oh Snap! by Alex Chicas who came first, Wyn Thomas with “Scared” in second and “The Better Life” by Mara Galeno in third. Honorable mentions were also included: “Holiday Plays” by Brenda Gilmore, “6 Feet” by Mary Kroeck and “The Right Decision” by Zaria McDonald. The three winning works were presented on Thursday evening, as well as Friday and Saturday noon with two passes. On opening day, tickets sold out quickly.
The show began with the words of NEIU Stage Center Theater director John Bliss, who expressed his glee as he stepped onto the stage again after nearly a year and a half of remote activities and without the adrenaline rush of live performance.
After the applause started, “The Better Life” by Mara Galeno had started. “The Better Life” is a play that reflects burning issues such as racism, sexist attitudes and the collapse of the American Dream myth. With a plot reminiscent of the 1967 film “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” the play tells the story of an interracial couple Victoria (Esperanza Sandoval), a young woman of Puerto Rican descent, who introduces Josh (Javonti Mordican), a young black doctor to his parents who are a conservative Puerto Rican couple who know nothing about Josh’s “appearance”. Through compelling performances, Esperanza Sandoval and Javonti Mordican transmit to audiences the nerves of before the arrival of Esperanza’s parents and the tension of those awkward situations that make you roll over in your seat.
Next is Wyn Thomas’ Scared, a play about the effects of violence, especially its impact on children. Elizabeth Sacha plays Morgan, a young woman who takes care of little Cate (Olivia Mulder). The play begins with Cate waking up and spying on Morgan as she watches the news about a school shooting. From there, a dialogue begins in which not only little Cate’s fears come to light, but also those of Morgan, who doesn’t know how to answer Cate’s questions and also feels insecure. The two actresses manage to fill the stage with a scene from everyday life through a natural dialogue that has the innocence, grace and tenderness of children and reflects the icy harshness and proximity to violence.
The last work represented and the first place winner of this year’s edition was “Ho Snap! by Alex Chicas, a fresh and fun work that manages to speak in a friendly and casual tone about a subject as serious and profound as mourning. In “Oh Snap!” There are two parallel worlds that only Troy (Luke Steadman) can see. When Troy snaps his fingers, time stops with a fantastic light effect that manages to change the atmosphere and transport the viewer. At this moment, Jamie (José Perez) and Shirley (Esperanza Sandoval) appear on stage and attempt to give Troy some advice on how to talk to Cece (Ariel Stump), a student who is smiling at him from the back of the classroom. The very remarkable originality of the script and the great performance of Luke Steadman did an incredible job. In just ten minutes, Steadman goes through an authentic emotional journey from sadness and frustration and anger to the hope and euphoria of falling in love.