New Works Festival 2024

For more than 20 years, the Occidental New Works Festival has paired student playwrights and actors with professional guest directors and performers. Focused on writer-centric rehearsal and performance, the festival provides a real-world experience of new play development as it is practiced in major theaters around the country.

Produced by Zachary Goldsmith '24, Haowen Luo '24 and Laural Meade


The Plays & Schedule | Playwrights | Producers

The Plays & Schedule

All performances are in Keck Theater and will be followed by a brief talk with the writer and director.
Admission is free

Saturday, February 24, 2024

A Slight Disruption by Gianna Nguyen
Directed by Katherine Chou
After finding a journal of hand-copied Vietnamese folktales penned by her great-uncle, a teenage girl grapples with her confusing and sometimes surprising feelings of grief after his death. In bringing his fantastical tales to life, she finds support in her friends, both new and old, and in the adults around her.

Bridge Freezes Before Road by Jonah Matso
Directed by David Kahawaii
In central Maine, a tragedy brings a high school senior back to her hometown. As she struggles to make sense of what she’s lost, she journeys into real and imagined terrains, finally coming to terms with how the town she loves - and its residents - have failed her.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Homecoming by Jiahui Ji
Directed by Elana Luo
Inspired by Homer’s Odyssey, this comedic epic follows a young Chinese woman as she wanders from new person to new place, seeking a sense of “home.” Along a journey that takes her to China and back, she discovers how her finite and very real nature can exist in the uncertainty of a boundless in-between.

a double-bill
Directed by Ashley Sparks

Waiting for Godot to Leave by Ethan Remez-Cott
Be assured - any resemblance to the original classic play Waiting for Godot is entirely a coincidence. A city apartment. A couch. Evening. Two friends wait for Godot. Nothing to be done. But wait! Will a series of visitors change anything about their failed lives, or even their failed party? Guess we’ll have to… wait and see.

Aw Schmucks by Riley Polaner
On a seemingly innocent Yom Kippur, Juniper atones for her sins - while also resenting what she willingly chose to do. But the day takes an unexpected turn when two surprise visitors, a talking vegetable and a singing icon, put her through a harrowing but hilarious series of trials. Is her soul on the line or is it just a hungry hallucination?

The Playwrights

Jiahui Ji '24

Jiahui Ji

Hui is a current student at Occidental College, double majoring in CSLC and Theater & Performance Studies, from Beijing, China. This is their first time writing a play in English (their second language), which has unexpectedly opened up a world for them. They have found that humans write to “taste life twice,” in the most observant yet creative ways possible. In addition to playwriting, Hui has also discovered acting and directing as a channel to explore their ontological being, and means to share their experience with others. 


Jonah Matso '24

Jonah Matso

Jonah Matso is a senior in the Department of Theater & Performance Studies. He has always had a passion for story-telling, and is ecstatic to have found this medium. Jonah’s favorite stories to tell do not always have a unifying theme or genre, but rather are consistently inspired by his vision of the world around him. He hopes that they strike you as true; and if they should fall short of that, at the least, they entertain you.


Gianna Nguyen '26

Gianna Nguyen

Gianna Nguyen is an Urban & Environmental Policy major and Interdisciplinary Writing minor currently residing in Huntington Beach, California. As a self-proclaimed fiction writer and poet, Gianna tends to explore themes of family, race and culture, gender, and queerness in their works. A Slight Disruption is one of their few fully realized plays.



Riley Polaner '26

Riley Polaner

Riley Polaner is a DWA and Theater & Performance Studies double major with a minor in Linguistics. She hails from the great state of New Jersey and wants all the New Yorkers in the audience to know that she is very, very proud. She has always wanted an opportunity to expand her writing skills and is so grateful for everything New Works has given her. She wants to thank Will, Laural, her classmates from Playwriting, and her dad who kindly originated the role of Bette Midler in the original production. She hopes you enjoy her creation and if anyone finds a mini Spiderman water bottle somewhere in the theater, please let her know.

Ethan Remez-Cott '24

Ethan Remez-Cott

Ethan Remez-Cott is a senior in the Department of Theater & Performance Studies. He is so excited to have his play performed in the New Works Festival! He spent two years studying musical theater at the Boston Conservatory at Berklee but wanted a more well-rounded education. He then transferred to Oxy, where he is much happier. He would like to thank his wonderful cast and the incredible team behind the whole festival. Nothing could be done without all y’all. Congratulations to the performers and playwrights!!


The Producers

Zachary Goldsmith '24

Zachary Goldsmith

Zachary is excited to be back producing the New Works Festival for the second time! Zach (he/him/his) is a senior Theater & Performance Studies and Urban & Environmental Policy double major from Portland, Oregon. In addition to producing the festival, Zach has written and produced his show It Could Have Been Enough in March of 2023 as well as acted in Everybody and A Dream Play here at Occidental College. Zach loves telling relevant and innovative stories and creating/supporting new work. Enjoy the festival, everybody!


Haowen Luo '24

Haowen Luo

Haowen Luo (罗浩闻), a senior double majoring in Diplomacy & World Affairs and Theater & Performance Studies, is an international theater enthusiast and creator from Qingdao, China. He has engaged in various roles in theater, including acting, producing, designing, and set building. Haowen was one of the student producers for NWF 2023 and is excited to continue in this role for NWF 2024.



Support provided by the Edgerton Foundation, Academic Student Project Awards from Occidental College, and Omar’s Cookie Jar.

Contact the Theater & Performance Studies Department
Keck Theater 202

Box Office: (323) 259-2922