Chicago Tribune’s review of the Tritonysia Play Festival and Janet Ruth Heller’s play Pledging

Here is the Chicago Tribune‘s Review of the Tritonysia Play Festival and my short play Pledging. This is the first performance of Pledging.

“‘Tritonysia’ play festival offers mix of serious, humorous work,” posted May 8, 2017 by Rachel K. Hindery

Photo caption: Emily Pecaro (at left) is comforted by Brendan Butkus (at right) in “Personal Conscious,” one of 11 plays comprising “The Tritonysia,” which premiered at Triton College’s Cox Auditorium on May 5. (Rachel K. Hindery / Pioneer Press)

Sommer Austin stood surrounded by actors, each poised and holding a position reflecting their character.

As “The Tritonysia’s” artistic director, Austin said that months of preparation led to opening night. Playwrights submitted new plays; actors auditioned in December. Rehearsals lasted weeks.

“These students have been working incredibly hard, and I’m so proud of what they have accomplished,” Austin said.

“The Tritonysia,” Triton College’s first play festival, premiered in the Cox Auditorium of the Fine Arts Building on May 5. Austin said that the festival was inspired by “The Dionysia” of ancient Greece.

Plays include work from established playwrights, such as Rohina Malik, whose play, “Refugee Camp Wedding,” ended the evening. Another of Malik’s recent plays, “Yasmina’s Necklace,” is a 2016 Jeff Award nominee for Best New Work; it will be produced at the Goodman Theater in October and November, according to the theater’s website.

Submissions came from as close as Triton’s campus and as far away as Michigan, according to the playbill.

Actors met family and friends in the audience. Lynn Pecaro, of Harwood Heights, enjoyed the range of subject matter and themes.

“I found it was a nice mix of serious and humorous,” Pecaro said.

Her daughter, Emily, acted in “Personal Conscious,” a serious play that included a scene of domestic violence and the aftermath of a murder.

Plays were set in a variety of times and places; some were realistic, while others were whimsical. Pecaro said her favorite plays addressed modern life.

“I like how they addressed a lot of modern issues that are going on,” Pecaro said.

“Refugee Camp Wedding,” set in a camp for Syrian refugees, was among those addressing modern themes.

“The wedding was inspired by a photograph I saw of a wedding at a refugee camp. It made me think about the resilience of the human spirit; to continue with life after experiencing war,” Malik said.

“Pledging” takes place in the 1960s. Bonnie R. Phillips played a sorority pledge, whose friendship is tested by racism.

“It was fun trying to emulate the sorority girl from the ’60s and the mannerisms they have, and the emotions and the topics were very real,” Phillips said.

Phillips also directed “Personal Conscious.” She said her cast could relate to the essence of their characters, even if they hadn’t experienced the same events.

“It’s about going back and finding those core desires within themselves. That’s expressed through the character,” Phillips said.

At first, Neomara Serges said she was apprehensive about her directing debut, but “after this, I’m more inspired to keep directing and writing plays myself.” Serges said she enjoyed directing “Guidelines for Public Speaking,” a comedic play about a speech gone wrong, as many of her roles have been in serious plays.

Having been on stage also eased Serges’ transition to director, she said. “I already know the stage and the inner workings of it,” Serges said.

Others made their stage debut in “The Tritonysia.” Jordan Kantola has acted in, written or directed movies including “Moorland” (2014) and “Wronged” (2016).

“Afterglow,” Kantola’s first stage role, addresses themes such as different types of love and topics including AIDS. Kantola said such complexity made each performance different. “Every time we perform it, you develop a new emotional sense,” Kantola said.

Audiences responded to the emotions of each play, at times hushed and at other times laughing.

Throughout the 11 plays, “audience members can expect the unexpected to happen,” Kantola said.

“The Tritonysia” includes adult themes and language. Its second weekend of performances are May 12-14, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Cox Auditorium. Tickets, available at the door and by cash only, are $10 general admission and $5 for students, faculty/staff and seniors.

Photo caption: Bonnie R. Phillips reads a letter as Diamond Gray looks on. Phillips and Gray play best friends whose friendship is tested by racism in the 1960s. The play, “Pledging,” was part of Triton College’s first play festival “The Tritonysia.” The festival premiered at the Cox Auditorium on May 5. (Rachel K. Hindery / Pioneer Press)

Rachel K. Hindery is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.

Copyright © 2017, Chicago Tribune

The link to the full review is http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/elmwood-park/news/ct-elm-tritonysia-fest-tl-0504-20170508-story.html

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