Playwrights give guidance, inspiration to Instant Play Festival participants

Mallory Martin

The Instant Play Festival is a time-honored Whitman tradition. Entering its fifth year, the festival gives 14 Whitties the opportunity to learn from three different professional playwrights over the course of three weeks, absorbing all they can and learning the tricks of the trade.

This year’s Instant Play writers pose with examples of one of their writing prompts, handmade posters of their bodies. Photo by Allie Felt.

At 9 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 23, seven of the students will be given a predetermined prompt and prop and sent off to write one ten-minute play to be submitted in the morning. Then, their piece is passed off to one of seven groups of volunteers consisting of students, professors and faculty alike, who proceed to direct, design and practice the piece over the course of Saturday, Sept 24. By 8:00 p.m., the plays are performance-prepared and ready for their world debut. The process is repeated the following day with the other seven playwrights.

This year, visiting playwrights Daniel Alexander Jones and Kristin Newbom, along with Whitman’s Assistant Professor of Theatre Kristen Kosmas, were on hand to assist and educate the eager group of new playwrights.

Kosmas, who has participated in the festival since its creation in 2008, particularly loves the knowledge the different playwrights bring to students each year. As director of this year’s event, it fell upon her shoulders to select the new faces for the program. Jones and Newbom immediately came to mind.

“Their approaches to playwriting are unconventional, and their ideas of the form, and what it can include, are broad,” said Kosmas. “I think it’s important for young playwrights to know that there actually is no ‘right’ way to write a play, and I thought Kristin and Daniel might encourage the students to embrace and enjoy that freedom.”

Newbom, a Brown University graduate, native Seattleite and author of several plays including “Telethon,” “Bluestory” and “Subrosa,” was grateful and excited to participate in this year’s event.

“I was thrilled to be invited by Kristen Kosmas to come teach a playwriting workshop at Whitman. I had heard great things about the college and the theatre department, and they all turned out to be true!” said Newbom in an e-mail. “The great thing about the Instant Play Festival is it’s a very potent flash immersion into what it takes to make a play. And since it’s condensed into 48 hours, the collaborative experience of it is heightened, which makes for ripe experiential learning and rich community-building. It’s a wonderful way to start the academic year and the mainstage season.”

Tickets are available in the Harper Joy Box Office from 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.-4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 30 minutes before every show. The festival will perform on Sept. 23 and 24 at 8:00 p.m.