UNCG’s Theatre Department will present the 16th annual showcase of its production “Winter Briefs” this month. The roster of playwrights this year includes four undergraduate students, three graduate students and one alumnus. Directed by juniors David Anderson and Ezra Brain, this year’s production is being co-produced with Alpha Psi Omega, the UNCG theatre fraternity.
Over the years, “Winter Briefs” has experienced modifications such as names changes. Although previously known as “Fall Briefs,” and “Flannel Shorts” even before that, the concept and format of the production remains the same. Each year, UNCG theatre students and alumni compose 10-minute short plays to be performed by the theatre department. In years past “Winter Briefs” was produced by the UNCG theatre department and directed by faculty. However, with the exception of a few advisors, the production is now completely student-run with the assistance of Alpha Psi Omega — making their debut this year as co-producers.
Alpha Psi Omega is the national theatre honors society and service fraternity of UNCG. It was founded nationally in 1925 and the Zeta Omega chapter at UNCG was founded in 2009. Currently, the fraternity has 64 active members, four of whom serve on the Executive Committee: Daniel Fulling (President), Claudia H. Stein (Vice President), Gillian Gurganus (Treasurer) and McKenzie Eury (Secretary). UNCG theatre faculty member Jim Wren serves as the fraternity’s advisor.
When presented with the idea of having Alpha Psi Omega produce this year’s production of “Winter Briefs,” the fraternity’s executive officers were beyond thrilled. In spring 2014, Alpha Psi Omega produced their first show, “The Last Supper,” as a part of the UNCG theatre season. This year, Alpha Psi Omega selected plays from a plethora of submissions from UNCG theatre students. After the executive officers reviewed all submissions, eight were selected to be produced for the showcase. The fraternity was also in charge of selecting directors and designers for “Winter Briefs.”
Out of everyone involved in the production, over half are members of Alpha Psi Omega. One of the fraternity’s executive officers said, “We know that each and every one of them has and will continue to represent the fraternity with talent, professionalism and commitment.” With this being the first show of the spring semester, the fraternity is excited for people to see what their members and other theatre students have been working on so diligently since November.
The production is under the direction of David Anderson and Ezra Brain, juniors in the UNCG Theatre department who considers the experience to be challenging, yet beneficial. “The biggest challenge was dealing with a short timetable,” Anderson said. “It is also the first time Ezra or myself have had to be completely collaborative with another person while directing a show. Ensuring both parties are happy has been a constant struggle while allowing us to grow.”
The biggest thing the directors hope the audience take away from this production is that it isn’t just “student work” or a series of short plays, but a production that has involved months of preparation and collaboration.
Co-director Ezra Brain envisions to make the whole show feel like a complete theatrical event. “A great danger of evenings of short plays are that they feel very disconnected and random which robs the audience of true catharsis,” said Brain. “We made it our goal to tie all the short plays together so that the audience could feel like they were on one journey, one story so that the ending can feel like an ending rather than just another play.”
Brain also anticipates a lot of post-show discussion, claiming that he cannot wait to see how the audience responds to the experimentally challenging productions. “There’s a playwright in New York, Young Jean Lee, and her company’s motto is ‘Destroy the Audience’ and that’s always stuck with me,” said Brain. “The way I take it is that as theatre artists, we should always be striving to break down what the audience expects and try to throw them for a loop. Theatre should be disruptive and troubling. We should trouble presumptions made by the audience and I think that ‘Winter Briefs’ does that.”
“Winter Briefs” will debut on Feb. 4 at 7:30 p.m. in the Brown Building Theatre. It will also run on Feb. 5 and 6 at 8 p.m. and Feb. 7 at 2 p.m. The production is open to the public and the cost of admission is $8.