WKU New Works Festival performers share their stories

Hope Mohon, a freshman musical theatre major, plays the roll of Mona Es Trojan in the play Bada Bing Bada Boom Burlesque. This is one of many plays being performed at the New Works Festival on March 1-4 in the Gordon Wilson Hall Lab Theatre. “Not only has this project been fun and liberating, but it also lets others know that the way women dress, dance, or act doesn’t make them a stereotype” Mohon said. “We’re all individuals and deserve to be treated with respect.”

Noah Moore

One of the events that is part of WKU’s theatre and dance program is the New Works Festival, which took place March 1-4 and featured students with stories to tell.

The New Works Festival is cited as “connection, collaboration and creative chaos,” according to the Fine Arts Box Office. Within this program, students are given the opportunity to write, direct, choreograph, produce and act in completely new productions written by students. This festival is a culmination of the theatre and dance department’s expanding projects beyond mainstage productions.

One of these productions was entitled “Bada Bing Bada Boom Burlesque,” an anthem to feminism and female empowerment. It was directed, choreographed and partially performed by Reagan Stovenour, Bernadette Turnage and Sabrina Sieg. Many people were involved in this production, including freshman Nelmarie Mohon, who goes by Hope.

Mohon is a musical theatre major with a wide experience that brought her to WKU. She started acting in a second grade community play and since then has done about 35 shows.

“I’ve grown up doing theatre with several older friends who also came through the program and I’ve always heard good things,” she said. “I love the artistic environment, professors and the constant encouragement to create and perform WKU offers.”

Some of her favorite roles include Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” Ariel in “The Little Mermaid” and Wendy in “Peter Pan,” but she was particularly excited about her role in the New Works Festival this year. She played the role of “Mona S. Trojan,” a role that featured her scantily clad and singing and dancing to anthems of feminism and female empowerment.

Sophomore Austin Higgins also took part in the New Works Festival. He said he’s always loved theatre, but he really began pursuing it as an art form in eighth grade. Since, he has been in shows at his middle and high schools and at WKU, where he is a musical theatre major. He was seen last semester as Kurt in “Heathers” as part of the Revusicals in November, which was a student presentation of musicals in short-form.

Higgins came to WKU for many reasons, but the theatre program is one of the factors that made him pick it.

“What I loved most about WKU is the beautiful campus, as well as all the theatre and dance professors,” he said. “They just really want the best for us and support us.”

The support offered by the professors is what fuels the campus theatre projects such as Plays in a Day, a 24-hour play writing and producing festival, along with student-directed children’s shows and the Revusicals.

Higgins was also seen this past weekend in “Bada Bing Bada Boom,” where he placed gender roles on their head by portraying feminism in a new light through the male gender. He also played a role in “What We Tell Ourselves,” written by Gabriel Pless and directed by Darian Doom-DeVoto.

Along with Mohon and Higgins, sophomore Natalie Thompson finds herself drawn to WKU theatre for many reasons. Thompson began doing theatre her freshman year of high school where she worked on the tech side. She then moved into performing her sophomore year of high school, where she got to play such roles as Alice in “The Addams Family” and Baroness Bomburst in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” This past weekend, she played Ruby Static in “Bada Bing Bada Boom.”

Thompson said she was drawn to the community within the theatre department and campus.

“I chose WKU because of the community,” Thompson said. “I love that the department gives me the chance to form my own interpretation of roles. The process of bringing a show from page to stage is fun and a challenge I enjoy. But I also love being able to be involved in other ways.”

Features reporter Noah Moore can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @noah_moore18.