Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Instant Play Festival inspires student creativity

Harper Joy Theater’s Instant Play Festival, a showcase of the collaborative creative efforts of the Whitman community, commences Saturday, Sept 25. For three weeks, students have participated in writing workshops under professional playwrights Jason Grote, Dan Lefranc and Kristen Kosmas. During these workshops, students are taught how to write creatively in a short time span. They are also exposed to texts designed to challenge their previous notions about the depiction of theater on stage.

Each playwright has the opportunity to work individually with students. Junior Ami Tian, for one, thought the hands-on approach of Jason Grote was very beneficial.

“As a non-writer, I have spent more time analyzing plays rather than writing them,” said Tian.

These interactions with the professional playwrights have been a source of inspiration for student writers. By providing students with practical techniques, the visiting playwrights have encouraged students to pursue their creative abilities despite the competitiveness of the theater world.

“[The workshops have] personally helped me to combat the sense that one is behind in artistic development,” said senior Trevor Cushman.

At the conclusion of these workshops, seven students are randomly assigned a production team consisting of a director and several actors. Students, faculty and staff volunteers all work in different capacities. The evening before production night, writers are given a theme and the number of actors on their team. Their assignment is to turn in a ten-minute play incorporating those thematic elements by the next morning. Then, production teams are assigned and rehearsal and stage preparation begins. The following night, the process occurs again with the remaining writers, as well as with a new theme and set of production teams.

The time constraint on the creative process produces an incentive for students to create and produce workable material. Tian, who is a first-time participant of the Instant Play Festival, revealed the anxiety surrounding this experience.

“If you fail in front of the audience, you feel like you are wasting their time,” she said.

In order to deal with this pressure, students often employ the techniques learned in the workshops. Last year, Cushman utilized advice given by Casmos, who mentioned the importance of doing nothing in order to let what is observed or produced properly sink in.

“It’s tempting in this kind of process, searching for inspiration,” said Cushman. “The brain, being so active, prevents you from internal springs of inspiration.”

Students not only found inspiration from the playwrights, but also from other participating students.

“Hearing about other people’s plays and seeing how they approach the assignment in different ways and hearing them talk about their writing process has been helpful,” said Tian.

For Tian, this project has helped to provide insight into the creative process of others in order to gain confidence in showing her own.

Chris Petit, assistant professor of theater, is excited about the collaborative effort made by the Whitman community during the Instant Play Festival.

“I love this event,” he said. “Students, faculty and staff working together to create and perform 14 new plays in 48 hours, producing a theatrical event that involves all aspects of our community.”

In this way, the Instant Play Festival is a breeding ground for creativity, inspiration and courage for Whitman student writers.  The performances are scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 25 and Sunday, Sept. 26–both at 8 p.m.

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