Student talent takes center stage in ‘The Fringe’

Theater art students Desiree Juanes (left) portraying "Ashley", Roni Espinoza (middle) portraying "Maria", and Sara Witsch (right) portraying "Willa" rehearse for a play called "COMM 150" on Monday, Apr. 4. (Alex Kofman / Xpress)

Over the course of the past year, theatre arts major Jennifer Marte has been up late laboriously writing about rape, relationships, mental health and self-worth to prepare for her short play “Comm 150.” The show premiered Tuesday, April 5, at 7 p.m. in Room 104 of the Creative Arts Building.

“Comm 150” is centered around five SF State students enrolled in a communications course. Throughout the show, students receive writing assignments that remind them of painful past experiences.

“I wrote this play because I wanted to explore the fascinating reality that, though there is no one untouched by tragedy, we seem to forget that we are not the only ones dealing with hardship,” Marte said. “Everybody you will ever meet or have ever met has known pain. We all have stories we’d rather not tell.”

The play is one of several taking place as part of this semester’s Fringe series, an event put on by the theatre arts department that features a series of one-act plays written and directed by students.

“Everything you see when you go to The Fringe is done by the students at SF State – that’s a huge testament to how much talent is on this campus,” Marte said.

“Comm 150” director and senior theatre arts major Elyssa Mersdorf is a longtime friend of Marte. According to Mersdorf, she initially agreed to direct the show because she admires Marte’s uncanny ability to write dialogue that feels relatable.

“Her characters speak and act like real people,” Mersdorf said. “This play makes you laugh and then unexpectedly cry.”

Senior theatre arts major Sara Witsch plays the sweet-yet-slightly-neurotic Willa, who has the strange habit of stress-eating fruit in order to alleviate her anxiety. According to Witsch, working with both Marte and Mersdorf has been an incredibly collaborative process. 

(Jennifer) and I can bounce ideas off each other, and when I talk about the smallest details for hours, she understands how important every little detail can be,” Witsch said. “Working with Elyssa is inspiring. Working with her is like a conversation – we both have the opportunity to share ideas and can work off each other.” 

SF State students Donny Goglio (left) portraying "Jason" and Roni Espinoza (right) portraying "Maria" in the student-run play "COMM 150" rehearse a scene on Monday, Apr. 4. (Alex Kofman / Xpress)

SF State students Donny Goglio (left) portraying “Jason” and Roni Espinoza (right) portraying “Maria” in the student-run play “COMM 150” rehearse a scene on Monday, Apr. 4. (Alex Kofman / Xpress)

Junior theatre arts major Desiree Juanes plays Ashley, a short-tempered-yet-flirty freshman who struggles with helping her classmates complete a paper about sexual violence.

Jennifer has written such a beautiful show and is also very open-minded,” Juanes said. “I am honored to be a part of this brilliant piece of writing.”

Mersdorf took special care to note that she has acted alongside Marte in multiple small-scale productions over the course of the past three semesters.

“Jen and I have been friends since we acted together in a Greenhouse staged reading last year,” Mersdorf said. “In that play, we were sisters – we still are sisters really.”

“Comm 150” plays every night through Friday.