BET begins tradition of 24-hour play festival
Published: Monday, February 13, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 02:02
The countdown started at 5 p.m. on Saturday evening. Interested directors, writers and actors met in the Castle Commons with a singular purpose: to write, direct, rehearse and perform a series of short plays in the span of 24 hours. Although more students had expressed interest in participating by signing the sign-up sheets in the Shapiro Campus Center during the week leading to the festival, only seven students attended this initial meeting. In fact, cultivating interest was one of the greatest challenges for coordinators David Benger '14 and Abigail Clarke '12, as most actors in the Brandeis community were already committed to rehearsing for other spring semester productions.
Benger led the 10-minute meeting. Initially, the plan was to pair writers up, but because participation numbers were low, students were asked to write their original plays individually. Benger requested that all five writers begin working on their plays immediately after the meeting and submit them to him via email between 4 and 5 a.m. It would then be Benger's and Clarke's responsibility to edit the resulting four plays, before the scheduled 8 a.m. meeting for actors and directors.
During the morning meeting on Sunday, Benger and Clarke assigned parts to eight actors and actresses based on the gender breakdown and then gave each of the four directors the chance to choose the play they were most interested in working on. The actors and directors got to work shortly after the meeting and only stopped to take a quick lunch break. Because of the other on-going theater productions, participants were unable to start rehearsing on the stage until a mere four hours before the scheduled 5 p.m. performance. The schedule in the theater also discouraged Benger and Clarke from designing a set that fit a theme for this festival, as it would be difficult to build a set while other groups were rehearsing. But even though writers were instructed to free-write and most did not collaborate with one another (directors Julian Seltzer '15 and Amanda Stern '15 were the only directors who co-wrote their play), there was a unifying theme among the productions.
All four plays dealt with issues of sexual orientation, unconventional sexual relationships and, more broadly, sexuality. Although they dealt with modern and relevant issues, all four had a comical twist. While most actors and actresses used scripts during their performances, the plays did not fail to capture the heaviness of the issues discussed.
Seltzer and Stern's "Sudden Feelings" was a 15-minute thought-provoking story of a lesbian couple working in a sex shop in a conservative town. During the play, the town's Republican primary candidate pays a visit to the sex shop while the couple is working, in pursuit of sex paraphernalia. Amusing and provocative, this original piece dealt with the issue of sexual orientation within a given social and political context.
According to Stern, the inspiration for this play came from and article she and Seltzer read together a few weeks back. She also commented that the most challenging part of this process was "deciding when to stop [writing]." The duo wrote from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Elly Kalfus' '13 "The Penis Dialogues"–a satirical spin-off of The Vagina Monologues—opened with two male characters who claimed that they would use such materials as interviews with other men to argue against the notion of the male privilege. In this play, female actresses represented male characters, while male actors represented female characters. This play was successful in fulfilling it's ultimate purpose: to make the audience laugh at the incoherence of the arguments against the notion of male privilege. Although not persuasive (as was intended) it touched upon some controversial truths about self identification.
In Aaron Fischer's '15 "The Forgeries of Jealousy," two young men are visited by the ghost of their ex-girlfriend. Her inability to choose between the two of them while she was alive has left them both bitter and resentful towards one another. During the play it becomes clear that the three were involved in an unconventional relationship, as both men were romantically involved with the now-dead-ex-girlfriend, yet were aware of each other's involvement.
Emily Duggan's '15 "Mirrors" centered around a young woman on her wedding day. Before she walks down the aisle to marry the woman she loves, she reminisces with her brother and talks about the quest to realizing and accepting her sexual orientation.
In the end, only the coordinators remained awake for the duration of the 24 hours. Seltzer described the process as "two 12-hour shifts," with the writers having the first shifts and the directors and actors the second.
This is the first time this type of production has been attempted at Brandeis. Benger and Clarke took their inspiration for the event from the annual Hillel Theater Group's 24-hour musical that happens in the fall and "Quickies," the Brandeis Ensemble Theater's fall festival of student-written short plays.
They hope the 24-hour play festival will become a spring semester tradition.
In the future, Benger and Clarke hope that the festival will take place closer to the beginning of the semester so as not to interfere with other productions.