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UT students explore different roles in New Works Festival

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Theater, dance, football and disability? They don't typically go together. But in a play written, directed and performed by U-T students at the Cohen New Works Festival, all four came together in one truly "Colossal" performance.

Playwright of "Colossal" and graduate student, Andrew Hinderaker, wanted all different types of individuals to appreciate his work.

"I want football players to come in and feel like we're honestly telling that story. I want dancers to come in and feel like we're honestly telling that story, and I want the community with disability to come in and feel like we're honestly telling that story and that experience," he said.

Colossal includes a 20-person ensemble and a drum corps. It tells the complicated story of a dancer turned U-T football player who suffers a debilitating spinal injury and his struggle to rebuild his life. The play also addresses the controversial and pertinent issue of homosexuality's place in athletics.

But it's not just this play that is combining different talents and disciplines. The entire festival lets students explore the different roles theater and dance offers.

This is what UT Theater undergraduate student, Michael Quinnlara, enjoys most about the New Works Festival.

"You really have the opportunity to explore parts of theater that you want to work on but you haven't necessarily always a part of."

The Director of "Colossal" and graduate student, Will Davis, also commended this aspect of the festival.

"It's not just the artistic and the creative process that's a student opportunity, but the producing and developing and promoting and the budgeting."

The New Works Festival is the largest of its kind in the country, and closes down the entire department for the week.

"No one holds classes and we're just here to see each other's work and respond to each other's work and just see where the rubber hits the road in your learning," Davis said.

It's that collaborative experience that has been the most beneficial to the department as a whole.

"It's been an incredible experience here because I've gotten to work with graduate students, with undergraduate students, with former students, with faculty, and with community members, so it's really drawing from all these different communities," Hinderaker said.

It's not just the UT community that's buzzing about this Cohen New Works Festival. Hinderaker won the Jean Kennedy Smith Playwriting Award for his piece, "Colossal", and will be honored at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington D.C. later this month.

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