April 20, 2009

Day-long Drama at the Schwartz Center

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Running on little to no sleep is unfortunately a general fact of life at Cornell, but not one that students embrace happily. A notable exception to this is a group of 15 dedicated students who took part in the 24 Hour Playfest, performed in Schwartz’s Black Box Theater on Saturday. The playfest has become a Schwartz Center tradition conducted every semester, starting in the spring of last year.
The students got together at 7 p.m. on Friday night to create two plays from scratch, which were then performed at 7 p.m. the following day. Audience members were welcomed at the door by the weary but exuberant coordinator, Brandon Imp ’10, and one of the stage managers, Valentine Vasak, an exchange student from France. Imp and co-coordinator Miasarah Lai ’12 had selected “changes” for the theme of the playfest with the stipulation that the plays would have either all female or all male casts, and with that criteria in mind the two writers Aaron Sprecher ’11 and Jonah Eisenstock ’10 sat down to write the plays into the early hours of the morning.
The first play performed was Sprecher’s The Story of Jennifer and Fran, featuring the all female cast of Lai, Angie Lopez ’10 and Alexandra Bradley ’11. The Russian dolls-esque play involved Lopez and Bradley playing two actors who were rehearsing for a part as two arguing sisters in a play directed by Lai. The actors were forced to run through their lines repeatedly as per demand of the director, who made them try the acting script with everything from humor to as lovers whose families were rival pizza makers to as people who lost control of their bowels anytime someone said the word “I.” The director was finally satisfied when she told Bradley’s character to act as if her husband’s sister was a cocaine addict, only to get word that the play had been cancelled and leave the actors to “conquer the world,” Pinky and the Brain style.
“It’s a great experience, a little stressful because we only had eight hours to fully rehearse, but it was definitely an opportunity to bond and make new friends,” said Lopez.
According to Imp, the idea for the playfest was originally suggested by Prof. Melanie Dreyer, theater, and was enthusiastically carried out by the students.
Sprecher’s lively play was followed by Eisenstock’s humorous Morning After. Actors Ian Jones ’10 and Zachary Davis ’12 played two boys recovering from a party they had held the night before, only to find a stranger, Farrell McKenna ’12, sleeping on their couch. The group went through an amusing attempt to recollect the night before comedically interjecting their sentences with the word “fuck” every few seconds. Amidst much confusion and fear that Jones’s character has been arrested and also now had a girlfriend, the play was an amusing parody of the stereotypical party lifestyle.
Behind the scenes were stage managers Alex Viola ’11 and Vasak as well as directors Carlos Guerrero ’10 and Remanu Phillips ’12. The stage managers and directors received the scripts from the writers at 7 a.m. to cast the plays before starting to rehearse. This was also the first time that playfest had technicians – Lauren VanDyke ’10 and Ian Harkins ’11 — and so they were able to have sound and light effects in the plays.
Imp said that the students that volunteered ranged from students in the theater department to students who were simply interested in theater. The duration of the event made it so that any interested student could participate because it only required a 24 hour time commitment. For several of the students, this was their first taste of writing, directing, managing or acting in a play on campus.
8 p.m. Saturday night brought a long round of applause from the audience for the happy, proud and sleepy 15 students, who were able to see their hard work successfully come to fruition.