Courtesy of the Cornell Performing and Media Arts Department

February 22, 2021

Festival 24: Virtual Theater in Twenty-Four Hours

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Festival 24’s fourth Zoom performance during the pandemic looked a bit different, but it was no less entertaining. Festival 24 is part of the Performing and Media Arts Department’s semester tradition, written, directed and performed virtually this semester and last. Students have just 24 hours to write and produce a play. 

The production streamed from Youtube at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 13, so that viewers could watch it from the comfort of their homes, and featured four plays — all centered on the theme “infatuation with a twist of perspective.”

“[The producers] try to keep the plays satirical since there isn’t much time to dive deep into drama,” said Melanie Goricanec ’23, the director of one of the plays, titled “Goal.” “[They] also know that the audience and actors may be new to theatre, and [they] don’t want to scare them away.” 

First up was “Indeathinate Relationship,” written by Millie Schwartz ’23 and directed by Samantha Noland ’21, which featured three friends in a Zoom call catching up on their personal relationships. One member of the trio, Christi, tricks her friends into thinking she is dating Casper the Friendly Ghost, but the plot twists at the very end, keeping the audience on edge for the entirety of the play. Eventually, Christi and her friend, Becca, profess their love for each other, and the audience is ultimately satisfied.

“Endings,” written by Audrey Rytting ’21 and directed by Adam Shulman ’22, was next up on the playbill. This showcased three teenagers, each one chatting about their various break-ups and relationship problems. There’s something quite comforting about watching peers around your age sharing their own relationship conundrums, which almost always seem to be more disastrous than your own.

Third up was perhaps my favorite play in the entire production: “Recovery,” written by Gloria Oladipo ’22 and directed by third-year Ph.D. student Anna Evtushenko. “Recovery” was an especially satirical piece, featuring an “R.A.” meeting with three individuals. Intuition suggests that “R.A.” stands for “Recoveries Anonymous”; however, we soon learn that it’s an acronym for “Racists Anonymous,” when one participant introduces herself: “Hi, I’m Linda, and I’m a racist.” 

In this play, we are introduced to the woes of the white racist by two “R.A.” members, while the one Black participant, Meena, acts as a guest consultant listening to their racist confessions — as they hope to be absolved, or at least, recover. “Fucking white people,” mutters Meena as she rolls her eyes at the camera and concluds the scene. 

Last, but certainly not least, was “Goal” written by Regina Lassiter ’21 and directed by Goricanec. “Goal” took place in a medieval setting, featuring prison inmates, two of whom are there for witchcraft and slander. There is a subtle mention of the bubonic plague, and the viewers, now over a year into our own pandemic, don’t miss the reference.

Taylor Bezos ’23, assistant producer of the festival and actress in “Goal,” noted that the “biggest challenge about performing on Zoom is the lack of physicality.” Bezos added that without being able to move around, “it becomes a challenge to fully immerse yourself in the play and in the character.” However, she explained that the online format allowed her to “feel like [she was] a part of something, while staying safe at home.”

The production was able to unite both sides of the stage, audience and performers alike, in connection over their love for theater and art. In a time of so much isolation, Festival 24 made us all feel a little less alone.

Isabelle Pappas is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].