Since 1989 the residents of New College have produced a major dramatic production each year in Week 10 or 11 of Session One. Around twenty plays and a few musicals have provided an opportunity for residents to showcase their many talents acting, directing and producing these plays. From the list of plays produced it is evident that there has been a pendulum swing from “serious” drama to more lighthearted farce back to serious drama and back once again to farce. In 1996 the director Sarah Adeney chose the first comedy Rumours – a play by Neil Simon subtitled “A Farce”. Comedies have proven to be very successful in terms of audience numbers. Plays such as How the Other Half Loves, Rumours, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Pass the Butler have provided opportunities for actors to give their characters larger than life personalities that have had audiences in fits of laughter.
At the other end of the spectrum in terms of dramatic content, the College has also produced a number of plays that have required actors to develop a greater empathy with the characters being portrayed. In 1989 and 2003, actors performing in Away took up the challenge of presenting many different shades of emotion across each scene. In Inside the Island half of the characters go mad and at one stage in the New College production all that one could hear from outside the Main Common Room was the sound of people screaming. David Williamson’s plays Dead White Males and Money and Friends have also been performed successfully recreating aspects of Australian society.
The quality of the productions in terms of props, sets, backdrops and costumes has come a long way since 1989. In the original production of Away and The Real Thing in 1990 the set design and props were kept to a minimum with College furniture featuring in each scene; the main prop was a Chesterfield lounge which continued to reside in the Senior RA flat for many more years. No backdrops were used and members of the cast provided costumes from their own wardrobes. For Undiscovered Country the props and stage designs were considerably more elaborate with French windows being constructed as part of the set and a chandelier being hung from the ceiling and brought on and off for different scenes. The most recent productions have featured a wide array of props, elaborate costumes and detailed backdrops (largely constructed in the College Shed) to support the cast in their presentation of characters. Of course, not everything has always gone to plan. In 1992 auditions for A Hard God were cancelled due to difficulties over obtaining the rights (it was an HSC text that year). In 1997 the lead actor in Pass the Butler left New College two weeks before the opening night. At the last minute Pete Butchatsky stepped into the role and Sarah Adeney took over as the director.
In 2004, New College attempted the first play not written in the twentieth century – The Importance of Being Earnest. The play represented an opportunity for the directors to take College dramatic productions to another level. Elaborate costumes, characterisations and sets were all brought together by the two directors Anna Pankhurst and Chantelle Doyle to bring about what was one of the most successful productions in the College’s history.
In 2007, New College produced its first Shakespearian play - A Midsummer Night's Dream. It received popular acclaim, many laughs and applause. The production continued the nineteen year tradition of New College annual amateur dramatic productions.