Theatre Department Holds First 10 Minute Play Festival

“What if you meet the right person at the wrong time?”

Linda Cooper, chair of the Department of Theatre Arts, revealed this as the theme of Liberty’s first 10 Minute Play Festival to 13 eager participants one Saturday afternoon.

“As soon as Mrs. Cooper announced the topic, Esther (Eaton) leans over and says, ‘I think we should do it about an assassin,’” said freshman Gretchen Eckert of her teammate.  “And I was like, ‘All right. That’s good.’”

Eaton said that she had originally thought the theme sounded like it would fit in a romantic comedy, and then found an alternative way to interpret the theme.

“Since we don’t have any guys (on our team), how fun would it be if we added murder and time travel?” Eaton said.

Her team, named “Day One,” liked the idea and wrote their play about an assassin sent back in time to kill a young girl who would become the scientist responsible for creating a disease that would kill thousands of people.

With the 10 Minute Play Festival, students in Liberty’s Department of Theatre Arts like Eaton and Eckert had the opportunity to write, rehearse and perform a 10-minute play centered on the same theme in a 24-hour timespan from 4 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 27, to a dress rehearsal at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 28.  Culminating the 24-hour rush was a free performance of their creative handiwork, after which the audience voted on which play they liked best.

“It’s something I’ve done in grad school with my playwriting classes,” Cooper, who was in charge of the event, said.  “Then I went to the Southeastern Theater Writing Conference last year, and two of our students participated in the 10-minute playwriting festival there. I went to go see it and I was like, ‘Oh, this is a lot of fun as a way for anyone to get involved in theater and everyone to work in teams and get to know each other better and then see each other’s work.’”

The Festival contestants were given five wooden cubes to use as they wished for set design.  They were not allowed to use any props or costumes other than what they could find in their dorm rooms; Cooper described the festival as a “no-budget event.”

After Cooper divided the 13 participants into groups, she told each team where their “home base” was.  Each team had a “home base” in Green Hall where they could brainstorm ideas for their play and rehearse once they had a script written.  Announcing the festival’s theme, Cooper then sent them off to begin working on their play.

“Brainstorming and writing the first draft (were the hardest parts),” Eckert said.  “We would get stuck for an hour on one line thinking, what can we add? We had an idea, but we didn’t know specifically how to write it out, so that took a lot of thought and re-thinking.”

Students on the three teams – “Relatively Unbiased,” “Day One” and “Rushed Art” – wrote their scripts and started memorizing their lines on Jan. 27, with the last team working until 12:53 a.m., according to Cooper.  They returned at 11 a.m. the next day to worked on blocking and rehearsing their play until the dress rehearsal at 4 p.m., all with no help from faculty members.

“I really enjoyed being able to be so creative and it was nice to have just a set amount of time that we could do all of this crazy stuff in and try to figure things out,” sophomore Kylie Sanborn said.  “It was interesting because of the time limit on it that we had to figure all of these little details out in only a 24-hour period and get sleep at the same time.”

“(It’s) just a way of uniting members of the department and allowing them to do something very creative without feeling (that it’s) connected to a grade or a main stage production or even connected to faculty,” Cooper said.  “It’s something that the students are really pretty much controlling themselves and creating something probably more wonderful than what they realize.”

Liberty students, season ticket holders and professors gathered into Liberty’s Black Box Theater at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 29, to watch the creative work of the contestants.  Following the performances, theatergoers turned in the bottom part of their program with their vote for the best piece of theater.  Voters favored team “Rushed Art’s” performance of “Double Date,” a play about a deadly first date, giving them first place.

“I think it was a wonderful experience,” senior Rebecca Hibma said.  “It allowed me to get out of my comfort zone and just try something I’ve never done before, which was kind of scary having never written anything before, but it was a lot of fun.”

In the future, Cooper hopes to expand the 10 Minute Play Festival to include students from all departments to participate, but for now she hopes that the first festival allowed the participants to learn about the importance of creating art.

“I hope they learn that when it comes to art, that art happens because we create it and we can’t sit around waiting for others to create it, so we need to do it ourselves,” Cooper said.  “So it’s a way of controlling the culture and inspiring the culture, and what better group to control and inspire the culture in the future than Christian artists?”


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