Courtney and Cynthia, two young girls with braids in their hair and attitudes on their faces, approached other girls in the audience at Third Street searching for new members of The Bracelets. Some people in the audience, myself included, couldn’t tell if they were actually recruiting for a catty, teenage girl group or if these were characters being played out before the show even began. Looking around, you noticed a football player mocking other actors, a ‘nerdy’ girl trying to hang out with The Bracelets, and a boy sitting alone, away from the stereotypical teenage kids.
At the Cohen New Works Festival presented by the University Co-op, students at The University of Texas present new works of art, including theater, music, design and architecture. The festival creates a safe place for artists to nurture and explore their creativity while collaborating with other students and mentors. Named in honor of David Mark Cohen, the former head of playwriting at the University of Texas at Austin, this marked the thirteenth year the Cohen Festival has been running, with over 180 events free for the public to enjoy.
Third Street was performed as a staged reading with minimal design and limited lighting and sound. The cast’s talent more than made up for the bare stage, as they created sounds and movement coming from around the dark alley of Third Street, where the play is set.
Shane is an awkward loner living in a world of imagination and knighthood, running from the reality of bullying and sadness. While Otis, or OT, is a bully himself, imagining that dinosaurs are chasing him, a parallel to his abusive home life. The two actors, Cameron Mellin (Shane) and Luke Stefan Garcia (Otis), create characters we can all relate with, slipping into their fantasy worlds and developing an unexpected friendship.
When the unwanted dinosaurs in life are too much to handle, Shane sneaks away to slay the creatures and become a knight, with Otis giving him strength and support in their fantasy world. Third Street is a story about people who feel alone, are ready to escape somewhere, and have something they want to escape from. It’s a story about imagination, bravery, and friendship.
For more information about the Cohen New Works Festival, visit their website.