Students Direct Thought-Provoking Acts in Annual 10-Minute Play Festival

The 10-minute play festival is an event held annually to showcase plays written and directed by 5-C students.

Five plays were selected by committee and performed Friday, Feb. 12 in Dom’s Lounge, in accordance with year’s prompt, “Do contorted views of reality affect your future? How do you survive? What do you dream?”

In WHY, written and directed by Chrysanthe Oltmann PO ’12, the main character, Lucy, finds that her world is turned upside-down. First there is Sam, who thinks she’s a man. Then there is Ryan, Lucy’s somewhat split-personality boyfriend, who alternatively wants to be with her forever and calls her a bitch. Finally, there is Georgia, who has stopped eating because “Food is oppression!”

For me, the humor worked well because the students took the characters seriously, making one wonder whether it was the world that was mad or Lucy herself.

“These characters epitomized certain problems in our society, especially in how it treats women,” Oltmann said.

The play’s humor and contorted view of reality translated well, but it got caught up in dramatizing the ridiculousness of the situation, and some of the complexity may have been lost on the audience.

The second play, The Audition, was written by Aaron Isidore Brown PO ’11 and directed by Elisa Chavez SC ’11. It dealt with a subject that Brown, who has played cello since fourth grade, personally relates to: an audition for a violin seat in an orchestra.

“It’s about … self-perception, about trying to fit who you think you are to what you do with your life,” Brown said.

The story follows three characters: Rachel, James, and Gabriel. Their interaction is believable and sparks humor, especially when James’ bow and Gabriel’s violin go missing.

According to Brown, the ending is both optimistic and bittersweet. The seat is awarded to Rachel because she has a “very hippie idea of I’m going to play what I feel,” Brown said. “She put herself into her music.” On the other hand, “James and Gabriel have put their perceptions into what they think they want or should be,” he said.

Stay Black and Die, written and directed by theory practice PO ’12 and co-directed by Evan Hemsely PO ’12, focused less on developing a particular character. According to practice, it follows the experience of black youths, conditioned early on to conform to an identity.

It presents a series of anecdotes with the backdrop of children’s games. For example, a boy tells the story of being pressured by his black relatives to chug henna seed, and when he finishes, they proclaim “He actually is black!”

However, practice says he is not necessarily critical of those who accept the idea of blackness that is imposed upon them. He wanted to explore the nature of identity, asking, “How is the self stable? Is it performative?” The result was one of the most penetrating pieces, and the actors’ passions manifest the underlying ideas with vitality.

Next the audience is introduced to a psychiatrist in The Dream Traveler, written by Emily Miner PO ’12. Patient after patient describes an unusual but vivid dream——the common thread a mysterious man who for many is more real than people in their daily lives. I liked that the shrink persisted in rationalizing the phenomenon as the stories became more unsettling. However, the script was slightly overburdened by the number of characters, and ought to have focused on only three or four characters and developed them more fully.

Daughters of Zion, written by Arielle Brown PO ’11, and co-directed by Shruti Purkayastha SC ’10 and Patricia Nguyen PO ’10 follows the experience of an all-female black liberation movement, particularly a lesbian woman who feels excluded from the mainstream.

According to Brown, “It’s about … the intersection between ancestry and reverence and black feminism.” Stylistically, the play combined mixed influences successfully, including audio from a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr.

The final play, Riverside Park, written and assistant-directed by Andrew Halladay PO ’10 and directed by Rebecca Hardesty PI ’11, analyzes the lives of a gay couple.

The dialogue contains bright flares of insight. For example, the first character, Diego, used to write in a notebook when they visited Riverside, but the rain would wash away the words as he was forming them. His partner, Ewan, says, “I did not know the purpose of the written word until then.”

This play was certainly representative of a festival that, as a whole, left the audience enlightened and entertained.

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