The Brave New Play Rites festival is moving off campus

Celebrating it’s 29th year the creative writing program’s annual festival, Brave New Play Rites, is back this week with 12 brand new student-written shows.

This time around, the festival features some off-campus expansion into Vancouver’s thriving theatre scene, featuring directors and actors from the city’s theatre community.

Ramon Esquivel and Sasha Singer-Wilson, who are acting as both playwrights and associate producers for the festival, have been hard at work throughout the fall and spring terms putting Brave New Play Rites together along with their peers.

“This year ... the festival is moving off campus, it’s been on campus for the past and it’s happening on Granville Island at Studio 1398,” said Singer-Wilson. “So we decided to kind of reach out more into the theatre community in Vancouver. So there’s a big mix in terms of the directors: some are much more experienced, some are really emerging, this might be their first time and we were interested in that in terms of the festival ... having a big mix.”

Esquivel and Singer-Wilson have opened up the doors to the playwrights -- from both the undergraduate and graduate creative writing programs -- to experience putting their plays on stage with working members of the theatre industry.

“The festival is like a stepping stone professionally for people as opposed to, if it’s on campus, it feels a little more just like in the institution of UBC, which is great too, but this is a nice opportunity for people to have like a little bit more of a step out of school,” said Singer-Wilson.

The process allows the playwrights to grow creatively through this structure of extra-curricular involvement. Singer-Wilson and Esquivel have both had the opportunity to wear the many hats of theatre production and that opportunity has been available to all writers participating in the festival: some playwrights are directing other plays, while all students have the chance to sit in on rehearsals and work closely with the actors and directors bringing their work to life.

“If anything I think it’s made me a more ambitious writer because I’ve seen what we can do with like no budget and the creativity of the directors and the courage of actors. That’s sort of made me [realize] whenever I write I’m gonna find people to collaborate not only to bring it to life but to do it beyond what I thought,” said Esquivel.

With a dozen shows on the bill, there’s no shortage of ambition or diversity. “There’s a broad range of shows,” said Esquivel, “There’s, you know, physical comedy, there’s dramas.... My play is kind of this magical realism idea of two people who meet on the bridge in the middle of the night. And it’s kind of about ... their entire relationship with each other, there’s also these sort of supernatural elements to it too, but it’s also funny.”

Singer-Wilson’s play could not be more different. “It’s about a twelve-year-old boy,” she said. “It takes place at a Speakers League, which is like a public speaking platform for young people, and the past and present start to kind of blur for Lenny, the character, as he talks about his weekend that he’s just come away from that’s pretty dramatic.”

After months of tireless re-writes, coordination and creativity, Esquivel and Singer-Wilson are ready to see the fruits of everyone’s labour.

“The fact that these productions are moving forward -- and I think they’re gonna be really good -- I think that in itself is an accomplishment,” says Esquivel.

The festival promises to be an excellent display of UBC’s emerging playwriting voices and a fantastic way for new directors to help bring these new stories to life with the help of industry veterans. Brave New Play Rites is a great opportunity to support UBC’s stars on the rise and to check out the incredible work students are doing in the Creative Writing program.

The festival runs through Thursday March 12-15. Visit their website for more information.