10-minute play festival gives novice actors chance to perform

by Lauren Sarner | 2/4/13 11:00pm

Purgatory, colleges and hotel rooms might seem to have little in common, but these are just a few of the settings that will appear in tonight's 10-minute play festival. The festival which occurs once a term and typically features five or six short plays, all written by student playwrights will include eight plays.

Jaymes Sanchez '13 and Laura Neill '13, co-presidents of the Displaced Theater Company, are both producers and directors of the festival.

"It's is a very low time commitment," Sanchez said. "It's a nice gateway for getting more involved in theater. Maybe you've never done it before; maybe you've done it a little; maybe you're taking three lab classes this term and wanted to try something different."

Participation in the plays does not require an audition; instead, students who sign up are given roles regardless of their level of acting experience. The entire process, from casting to performance, takes around a week.

"I think it's great for Dartmouth because people are so busy; it's not always easy to find time for what you want to do," Jacqui Calloway '14, who is acting in the festival, said. "You get to have the script during the performance, so it's very low stress. No one forgets their lines."

While Calloway is a theater minor who has performed in the festival before, other students such as Anna Gabianelli '16 said the festival is great way for people like her with limited acting experience to get a chance to perform.

"It's good for people who don't want to commit a lot of time but still want to be in a show," Gabianelli said. "I think I only have three or four hours of rehearsal total."

Because there is no audition process, Sanchez and Neill cast the parts arbitrarily, Sanchez said.

"I do try to distribute the people I know among all the plays, so that they aren't all in one play," he said.

Sanchez explained that this term has more plays than usual due to the popularity of the festival.

"We ended up having more actors sign up than we had parts for," he said. "I found out two days ago that I had to write a play, otherwise five people wouldn't get parts."

Calloway said that she had not begun to rehearse yet, as her play was still being written.

In addition to casting, Sanchez and Neill are in charge of selecting the featured plays from the plethora of student submissions.

"Generally the plays we get are about a lot of random things," Sanchez said. "We have one about two people having a conversation about literature and philosophy in purgatory; another is about two college guys going out on a Friday night. Another is a comedy about two guys having to share a bed in a hotel room."

When determining which play submissions to select, Sanchez and Neill focus on those that are the most structurally sound and appropriate for the stage, Sanchez said. The result is a spectrum of playwrights with a wide variety of experience.

"We have a few people who have never written a play before and some people who have submitted a bunch of times," Sanchez said.

Prior to the festival, Chris Gallerani '15 said he had never written a play. Tonight, his play will be featured alongside the likes of Cooper Stimson '13, who is an award-winning filmmaker, and Maia Matsushita '13, who received a Dodd Prize in the Frost Dodd Competition, last year for her play "Higher Ground."

"There's a nice cross section of plays," Matsushia said.

Gallerani had always wanted to try writing a play, and the festival gave him the opportunity to do so, he said.

"I'm really excited, it was fun to write," he said. "It was written for a man and a woman but it's been cast with two women. I'll be very interested to see how it turns out and if it makes me see it differently."

Although Matsushita takes many playwriting courses at the College, she was interested in participating in the festival because she does not often get to hear her work performed, she said.

"It's a good experience, to be able to hear what's working and what isn't," she said.

A recent addition to the festival is a writing workshop that will be held after the performances, Sanchez said. Previously, workshops occurred before the festival as a way to bring the writers together. After seeing the plays performed onstage, the writers can now get more feedback about what elements worked and what others were not as effective with the audience, he said.

"That's the direction that [Neill] and I want to take it in," he said. "We want to honor what the playwrights are doing with their work."

The 10-minute play festival will take place tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Bentley Theater.