Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Creating something from nothing for Instant Play Festival

It all started with an idea that Chris Petit, Assistant Professor of Theater, pitched last spring to the theater department through the Whitman listserv.

“In short, the festival will create, produce and present 13 plays in 48 hours,” said Petit.

“This is the first time we’ve had anything like this at Whitman, but if it goes really
well, maybe it’ll become a tradition. No one knows, but we’re all very excited,” said sophomore Tessa Carlson.

Harper Joy Theater presented the Instant Play festival – the promised 13 plays in 48 hours – on Sep. 27 and 28. With over 65 students and 15 faculty members participating, the event aims to bring together the Whitman community and inspire creative spirit among those who may not have much theater experience.

“As far as the casts, they can be anyone. All we had to do was put our names on a list.
And it’s not just students, there are some faculty and staff members who showed interest,
too,” said Carlson.

“The theater department brought in three professional playwrights as guest artists. Each playwright worked with a group of 13 student writers for one week each. At the end of the writing workshops…seven of the student playwrights will be assigned a production team,” said Petit.

“Those seven student playwrights will then be given a theme to work with, told the number of actors on their team, and asked to write a ten minute play that will be due the following morning,” said Petit. “The production teams will meet with their assigned playwright and rehearse the plays created the night before…and then perform the shows that night.”

The Instant Play Festival brings together theater veterans and people with little or no experience. The compressed timeline also contributes to the spontaneity of the plays and allows the creative spirit to flow.

“The idea here is to create a community event that involves and celebrates all aspects of our community,” said Petit. “Much of the event’s value lies in asking people to operate outside their comfort zone. Because of the compressed schedule, there is little time to over-think or rationalize the creative choices being made. The participants must draw upon their intuition and operate from an instinctual, creative place that celebrates courage and imagination. The result is not always the most polished work, but invariably creates some amazing discoveries and strikes right at the heart of the creative process.”

Another innovative aspect of the Instant Play Festival is the involvement of professional playwrights in the workshops.

“I invited the professional playwrights to come and work with our students. I created the workshops as a way to broaden our curriculum and provide the students with the opportunity to work with professional writers,” said Petit.

Since the theater department can’t offer any playwriting classes, the workshops provided an opportunity for students to get some experience with professionals.

“The performance aspect gives the student writers the opportunity to see their work developed through to production, which is important because plays are written to be performed,” said Petit.
The Instant Play Festival brings all sorts of people together to celebrate theater and help them gain more experience, whether they are new or experienced theater actors and writers.

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