Time limitations produce creativity
September 8, 2009
Theater buffs all across campus spent the majority of Sunday in bed. They’re entitled after going almost 30 hours without sleep, in some cases, in order to participate in the 24-Hour Play Festival sponsored by Alpha Psi Omega, the honors theater fraternity at the College of William and Mary.
The resulting six plays were nothing short of unique, especially given that their creators had about eight hours to write them.
“We get all types of shows,” Megan Behm ’11, the president of Alpha Psi Omega and the festival’s producer said. “Musicals, dramas: last year we had one about the murder of Miley Cyrus.”
This year’s productions were no exception. The only requirement the writers had to follow when creating their shows were a first and last line. The resulting plays included everything from the story of a panda-obsessed evil genius to the re-examination of a lifelong friendship. This freedom helps draw students to the competition.
“It’s all about who can produce great theater with so little time,” Behm said. “I mean, you ask anybody after it’s over, they will tell you they’re so tired, but it was so fun. And that really is true.”
The festival is not a show exclusively for theater majors. First-time participants and non-theater students are always welcome.
“This particular event is a great way for freshmen and transfers to meet people on campus, and it’s great for non-actors as well, because everyone is cast,” Behm said.
Jarrett Ley ’13, an actor in the festival, agrees. Ley played a recently deceased college student being interviewed in order to determine whether he would go to heaven or hell in the play “Influence.”
“This was my first audition at William and Mary. It was such a great way to get my feet wet,” he said.
Daniel Sonabend ’11, an exchange student from Nottingham, in England, was intrigued by news about the festival. He directed the play “The Wife is Not a Fan,” the story of a man attempting to choose between his wife and an electric fan.
“There was a theater meeting listed on the transfer schedule, and I heard about [the festival] there,” he said. “I’ve directed before, but I’ve never done anything like this.”
“Welcome to the happy chaos,” Behm said at their afternoon rehearsal. Chaos is certainly one way to describe it. This year, the festival suffered from the unique dilemma of having a large number of writers and directors but not enough actors.
“That’s just part of the challenge,” Behm said. “Directors directed themselves into their shows, I signed up, too.”
Greg Benson ’11, a writer in the festival, had to work with a limited cast.
“I had an initial idea going in that needed five people,” he said. “We normally have around 30 people audition for the festival, this year we had twelve.”
Benson even wrote himself and the director into the play “Sunny Side Up.” He also asked Behm for help.
“Greg’s a friend of mine,” Behm said. “[He] texted me at one in the morning and asked if he could write me into the show.”
Despite the difficulties that this year’s festival has posed, Behm was incredibly pleased with the overall result. “This has been stressful but good, any endeavor like this is worth it,” she said.