January 28, 2018

Festival 24: The Epitome of Creativity

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What did you do in the 24 hours starting from Friday at 6:30 p.m.?

A group of students were creating something incredible from scratch. Festival 24, which started in 2008 with only theatre productions, recently added film and dance performances to showcase the work of other students in the Performing and Media Arts department. Festival 24 challenges students to produce a story from a  one-word theme in 24 hours. Playwrights stayed up all night to write a 10-minute play. Directors and stage managers came in at 6:30 a.m. to cast actors. Rehearsals started right away, while the tech crew started coordinating light and sound.

This year’s program features four plays, a dance and a film. The Flex Theatre at the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts filled up as soon as the house opened, with people even sitting down on the ground.

I loved how different creative minds interpreted the theme “weather” in all ways possible. Playwright Janilya Baizack ’18 made a reference to the one and only Angels in America by bringing an actress wannabe into a hallucination state, where she met Harper Pitt in Antarctica and learned a life lesson.

The only dance piece of the night is titled Hurricane, in which the choreographer created a beautiful natural rhythm with the dancers’ smooth yet powerful movement.

My personal favorite was Teagan Todd’s ’20 Room 104, a play about the fictional “Cornell Loneliness Club,” where sad and lonely college kids with no friends can get together. Over the course of a club meeting, characters exchange stories about how they lost their friends. Luisa (Catherine Yu ’20) sacrificed friendship for school and higher GPA, Nicky (Alonzo Farley ’20) couldn’t resist the lure of casual sex and slept with all his friends, Daisy (Ilana Wallenstein ’21), who came into the scene with charisma and confidence that almost didn’t fit, eventually revealed that although she could easily socialize with anyone in the room, she didn’t know how to bring the conversation beyond surface level and build long-lasting friendships. These confessions are shockingly personal and relatable. As the club flyer reads, “Cornell is overflowing with these sad, sad fucks,” yet we never talk about our weaknesses half as much as we should. Todd, who was also the mastermind behind Booty Call in the 10-minute playfest last semester, has a unique sense of dark humor and her work always taps into the issues we face as college students with honesty and sympathy.

Richa Parikh ’20 and Carley Robinson ’21 are hilarious as the artificial intelligence “Alexa” developed by Amazon in Dream State, written by Jack Press ’18 and directed by Julia Dunetz ’19. The play, by showing how Alexas mess with college student Rowan (Scott Blankenbaker)’s psyche and produce a detrimental effect on his social life, vaguely reminded me of Black Mirror, a TV series that explores the modern age techno-paranoia.

To use project coordinator Irving Torres-Lopez’s ’18 words, “the amount of creative and emotional labor that went into this production is nothing short of remarkable.” Dancer Madeline Gray ’20 admitted that although the program has a lot of “rough edges along the way” due to lack of rehearsal, there’s “a kind of magic in making something so complete” in such a short period of time. Festival 24 is ephemeral and so particular to this moment in time, that I almost felt sad when it ended. But there’s always a next time, and if you want to see what some crazy, determined artists can create in one day, make sure to mark next semester’s date.

Ruby Que is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at yq62@cornell.edu.