Theater festival draws diverse crowd

This past weekend, a group of actors, directors and playwrights gathered to create, rehearse and perform a piece of theater — all within 24 hours.

Nine students participated in the Yale Drama Coalition’s fifth ‘Play in a Day’ festival, which began last Friday night and culminated in a performance on Saturday night in the Jonathan Edwards Theater. Two one-act plays — “Half-Baked” by Maxine Dillon ’17 and “A Two-Person Monologue” by YDC President Nikki Teran ’14 — were written during the first 12 hours of the event. The directors and actors spent the remainder of the time rehearsing the scripts.

YDC Vice President Skyler Ross ’16 said the festival’s time constraints separate it from the vast majority of theater productions on campus, adding that the event has historically attracted many students who are new to the undergraduate theater scene.

“The festival really runs the gamut from least experienced to most experienced members of the theater community,” Ross said. “We draw a lot of underclassmen who want to try something new.”

Eliza Robertson ’17, the YDC special events coordinator and the festival’s organizer, said the event tends to attract students who may not otherwise become involved with theater at Yale. Filipa Moraes, a post-doctoral researcher at the Yale School of Medicine who acted in “Half-Baked,” said she had never participated in any Yale theater production before performing in the festival. She added that she thinks that while most of the other participants have taken part in past theater productions, few have extensive experience with Yale’s theater scene.

Ross said that over the past several semesters, the festival has seen an increase in participation from members of Yale’s graduate and professional schools, which is a relatively rare occurrence in undergraduate theater productions. Moraes explained that short-term events such as the festival appeal to graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, who are oftentimes unable to commit large amounts of time to activities unrelated to their field of study.

Dillon, who participated in last semester’s ‘Play in a Day’ festival but has not been involved in other theater productions on campus, said she thinks the festival is particularly appealing to less experienced members of the theater community because of its low time commitment. She explained that students who are unsure of whether they truly wish to participate in the theater scene may feel intimidated by the heavy time commitment required of working on standard productions. The festival allows students to gain a general sense of the theater community without having to make such a large commitment, she noted.

“There are many students who might not want to be a part of this show that is going to take over their lives for a couple of months, but who may have a free afternoon,” Robertson said.

Anna Qin ’17, a cast member in “A Two-Person Monologue,” said she believes undergraduate theater productions can also be highly competitive for actors, which may discourage less experienced performers from auditioning. The festival has no audition process, she noted.

The event’s rules state that each participant must select their desired role — actor, director or playwright — during the sign-up process. Dillon explained that at the start of the festival, each playwright is assigned a group of actors, a director and a prompt that the writer then uses as a basis for the play. She said that after she was given a cast of two actors, she chose to center her play on the damaged relationship between a mother and her daughter after the mother’s husband dies, an experience that leads the mother to begin dealing drugs and the daughter to begin working as a pole dancer. Dillon added that her approach to playwriting for the festival focused on the two actors she was assigned — Moraes and Levi Gray ’16 — as she tried to create characters that seemed appropriate for the actors to play.

The last 24-Hour Theater Festival was held on Nov. 9, 2013.

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