Five potent student-directed plays, focused on the theme of ‘Power and Privilege,’ resounded through a packed Seaver Theatre at Pomona College’s Ten-Minute Play Festival on Feb. 17, during Pomona Family Weekend.
The theme responded to recent political discourse around marginalized groups in the United States.
“It was time to step back and look into our prejudices,” said Giovanni Ortega, assistant professor of theatre and dance and the event’s faculty producer. “And we had people from very different backgrounds. Real community was created.”
But the series did more than explore identities—Ortega said that the production’s audience included people from all the 5Cs.
“We had people from very different backgrounds, people who don’t usually go to the theatre,” Ortega said.
The festival captured the audience’s attention with the opening play, Angels in the Sky, written and directed by Zed Hopkins PO ’20. The performance was composed from interviews with ex-drone operators and set inside the mind of one operator. A fusion of dance, spoken word, light work, projections, and pulsating music mirroring sounds of breathing explored the operator’s experiences and the apathy of Western privilege.
“I wanted to blend East and West, Japanese Butho, which was the physical inspiration, and what we call contemporary performance … it was about bridging the gaps between cultures,” Hopkins said.
The second play, Good Morning America, written and directed by Jivika Rajani PO ’17, and starring the director, Rena Patel SC ’19, and Aiden Maurstad PO ’20, told the story of Mena, an Indian student, colliding with the world of the immigrant Sofia, and the American Nick.
“I tried to make it translate some of my own experiences as a woman of color,” Rajani said. .
The third play, Lord and the Snake, written by Grace Connaughton PO ’17 and directed by Sasha Scudder SC ‘19, opened with a gunshot, preparing the audience for something dark and dramatic. But the play drew surprised laughs with its depiction of a Miami druglord, played by Anais Gozales Nyberg PO ’20, an emotional support snake, and a journalist, played by Lilly Sterenberg PZ ’20.
The fourth play to hit the stage, Like Grandfather, was written by William Chen PO ’18, and directed by Elliot Joyce PZ ’18. In the play, a Japanese-Chinese grandfather dolefully explained his time in Japan, prompting his grandson to leave the family table and insist he was American through the play. The audience laughed as they realized that Peter was not so different from his grandfather after all.
In the finale, Smile, It’s Not that Bad, written and directed by Teagan Stewart CM ’18, women catcalled men, talked over them at a workplace, and claimed that the men must be feeling “moody” because it’s “that time of the month, high sperm-count and everything.”
“I think to reverse [the gender dynamic] is kind of a cold splash of water,” Stewart said, “To say ‘how would you feel if you were put in this situation?’”
The show ended by asking every woman who had ever been harassed or talked down to by a man to stand.
“I didn’t want to miss the moment, so I made sure to sit at the back,” Ortega said. “All the women standing, what a beautiful way to show the power of theatre.”