First ever ‘blank-by-blank’ festival to feature One-Act Contest rejects

Ami Tian

This Sunday, May 9, at 4 p.m. the first ever Blank by Blank Festival will feature original, student-written, student-produced plays, many of which were not picked as finalists in this year’s One-Act Play Contest. The festival, organized by the student-run theater company 12 Stones, will be presented in various locations around campus. The audience will congregate in the amphitheatre adjacent to Lyman Hall for food and drink and walk from there to the location of the first performance.

Sophomore Theo Pratt, producer of the festival, was inspired by a recent installment of 12 Stones’ serial, “Christina and the Clockwork Boy,” which employed a similar site-specific format. Walking during the show encouraged socialization and interaction amongst the audience. Pratt wanted to recreate a similar communal experience for the Blank by Blank Festival.

“One of the great things about being in the audience, walking as a crowd, is you can talk to different people in between scenes about what was going on,” explained Pratt. “There is a lot of energy from being in a moving crowd going to see different things.”

When asked about the individual plays being featured in the festival, Pratt remained enigmatic.

“I don’t want to give too much away,” he said. “They’re all very different, both in the style of performance and the script itself. There are some short films as well.”

In addition to his role as producer of the festival, Pratt will act in at least one production, and will have his work produced.

The Blank by Blank festival was originally conceived as the “Rejected One-Acts Festival,” according to senior and 12 Stones co-founder Ian Jagel.

“The idea came from the fact that the one acts get roughly 20 submissions a year and then they pick three to be produced,” he said. “That’s a lot of work that’s not getting made that isn’t getting done usually, so we just wanted to create a vehicle so that people can produce work that they’ve written.”

“And also potentially a vehicle for people who have work they want to exhibit that’s not necessarily narrative performance based work,” said senior and 12 Stones’ other co-founder, Peter Richards.

The name of the festival, Blank by Blank, was a placeholder name that stuck. It was expected that once submissions were received that the festival would be renamed according to the number of plays and the length of each play, such as the Ten by Ten festival which would feature 10 10-minute plays.

“We ended up keeping the name Blank by Blank because it really symbolized what the festival was about, just taking what we were given,” said Pratt.

The festival quickly moved past simply producing rejected one-acts to producing almost anything anyone wanted to be turned into performance.

“We sent out a bunch of e-mails and talked to a lot of different groups and asked them for performance pieces,” said Pratt, describing the process of soliciting work to be produced. “We said we’d accept anything, even recipes: we didn’t limit it to just plays.”

The casting process was similarly inclusive.

“The people who showed interest, we cast them,” said Pratt.   “Literally, there wasn’t anyone who showed interest who didn’t get cast. Then the people who showed interest in being directors got to be directors.”

Although the indiscriminate nature of the festival was one of its intentions, Pratt was surprised by how easily its participants: writers, directors and actors: were accommodated.

“I guess what surprised me is how nicely it’s come together, because usually when you’re doing something like this a lot of people are handpicked: you know, someone says, ‘I wrote this piece and I want this person to direct it,’ as in the case of the One-Act Play Contest, but this all sort of came together and I think it’s coming together very well.”