Event features student actors, directors and playwrights

Arielle Conrad performs in the semesterly event Plays in a Day Friday, Jan. 27 in Gordon Wilson Theatre. This event gives students a platform to create original pieces that are produced in less than 24 hours. “Normally a show’s rehearsal process can take anywhere from several months, so squeezing it all into just 24 hours was crazy, but so much fun,” Conrad said. “It offered a really great challenge.”

Sarah Yaacoub

Every semester, the Department of Theatre and Dance sponsors Plays in a Day, an event during which both new and experienced young actors, playwrights and directors have the opportunity to grow as artists and act under time pressure, as the main challenge of Plays in a Day is the 24-hour limit.  

The timeline of this semester’s event spanned from Friday to Saturday. The playwrights came in around 7 p.m. Friday and the general meeting took place an hour later, which allowed all participants to convene and discuss the agenda. At 9 p.m., prompts and challenges were given to each of the seven groups and the playwrights continued to work on their skits. At 8:30 the next morning, the actors arrived back at Gordon Wilson Hall, and rehearsal began. The final show was free to the public and took place at 8 p.m. Saturday at Gordon Wilson Lab Theatre.  

Every group typically has three to six actors, a director and a playwright. About four stage managers work with the participants to ensure the shows run smoothly and that all props are acquired and put into place. The actors work throughout the day Saturday to prepare and rehearse their lines. Because the time limit is so constrictive, they remain on book throughout rehearsal and performance.    

Reagan Stovenour, a theater major who produced Plays in a Day, said one of the event’s most important points is its inclusivity.   

“It’s open to everyone to participate in any capacity [he or she] wants to,” Stovenour said. “There are opportunities to participate at every point in every experience.”

Freshmen in particular are encouraged to take part in Plays in a Day. According to Stovenour, the event provides a host of benefits to new students, including allowing them to get to know their peers and connect with people at the university.

A number of people and organizations are involved in the process of Plays in a Day. Aside from the producer, directors, stage managers, actors and playwrights, the event enlists a social media outreach coordinator, Rachel Cato, to assist in getting the word out to students. Because the event is student-run, there are no faculty advisors, although Stovenour said she was grateful for the support from the department and from Alpha Psi Omega, WKU’s theatre and dance organization, which helps form partnerships and connections with the community.

Stovenour said that although experience in writing is preferred for students applying for the playwright position, the actors can be completely new to drama, and, in the past, a number of participants have come from other departments and backgrounds—she listed political science, film and creative writing as a few examples. The diverse environment is part of what has made the festival such a successful enterprise.  

It’s also an exercise in collaboration, as all the participants must cooperate and work effectively in order to keep pace and get everything done in time.  

“Every single word, comedic movement or emotional glance had a story and a collaborative moment behind it,” freshman Claire Wilson, a performing arts major who acted in the production, said. “It really is inspiring and absolutely hysterical to see what people can come up with in just 24 hours.”

Senior Morgan Stevens was a playwright for Plays in a Day, and he said that though playwriting can be a challenge, he loves it. He is majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing and a minor in film studies.

“I love the playwright side of the challenge,” Stevens said. “Pulling an all-nighter to create something entirely fresh is tough, but a blast.”

He said he loves seeing how a stage team makes everything come to life, but “best of all, though, is getting a response from the audience. I want people to have a good time and enjoy what they’re seeing in a show, so hearing everybody laugh is my favorite part of the experience, hands down.”

Features reporter Sarah Yaacoub can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahyaacoub1.