Fringe Elements

College students face an age-old dilemma when starting their careers: You can't get hired without experience, but you can't get experience without a job. Well, not unless you're a student in the Department of Theatre at ASU's Herberger College.

More than 60 undergraduate students (and some alumni, too) have taken matters into their own hands, creating opportunities for themselves in the world of stage. The Moon Dance Theatre Festival, which starts on Monday, June 24, is the result of the group's ambition.

This is the second year for the festival, a flurry of fringe theater in the midst of the Valley's otherwise-slow season. Festival organizer AJ Morales started the event last year when he realized how many students were sticking around for the summer. "Everybody's here because everybody wants to be here and do something," he says.

This year's program includes five published plays, a comedy show and two staged readings of original, student-written pieces — all top-notch work, Morales insists.

Aloha, Say the Pretty Girls by Naomi Iizuka is a dark comedy that follows the travels of young adults trying to escape their own unhappiness. ASU alumna Julie Thwaites directs.

ASU alumni Ron May and Anthony Runfola of Stray Cat Theatre direct Bash: The Latterday Plays, a trio of one-acts from Neil Labute, who also wrote In the Company of Men and Your Friends and Neighbors. "I really think Bash is going to have some really blow-away performances," notes Morales.

A performance of two one-act plays includes Brave Hearts, written by Harry Rintoul and directed by Justin Dero, which uncovers the memories of two strangers. Body of a Woman, about a rape victim left traumatized in the wake of the Bosnian War, was written by Matei Visniec, a Romanian playwright. Director Ivana Adzic is an ASU student and immigrant from the former Yugoslavia. "She has such a strong working knowledge of the Eastern European situation," says Morales. "I'm really excited to have that voice in the festival."

ASU student Joseph Benesh directs Deathwatch, a bleak tale of three death row inmates, written by famed existentialist Jean Genet. Providing a lighter note, the comedy troupe Farce Side performs an improvisational sketch.

The two scheduled staged readings include Story Within, directed by Eric Piatkowski and written by students Jonothan Howard and Tuey Burns, as well as Hand/Line, directed by student Laura Dougherty and written by Morales.

Though he's headed off to grad school at NYU after this year's festival, Morales is confident that other students will make Moon Dance happen next year. He adds, "This has the potential to become a really nice tradition at ASU."