This past Saturday evening, on the eve of Halloween, students and faculty members gathered in Goodrich Hall to engage with 30-some student performers prepared to face their audience alone on stage as part of the Dialogue One Festival 2010. With no stage makeup, props, scenery and certainly no candy, the performers shared with the audience two-minute long real-life stories, poems, music and skits with personal inspirational value.
The description above may be somewhat different from what people have previously known about Dialogue One, a solo theater festival created by Omar Sangare, assistant professor of theatre, in 2007. Indeed, the festival has undergone some changes over the past three years. Initially a final presentation for his solo performance class, the festival began to attract an increasing number of guest performers over the years and eventually gave birth to United Solo, the world’s largest solo performance festival, which will take place in New York City this November.
This year’s Dialogue One festival had a more casual feel than those from previous years: After initial encouragement from host Donald Molosi ’09 (who will participate in United Solo this year), the students came on stage one by one to perform their pieces. Although the scale of the festival was smaller this year, its purpose stayed the same.
“We [wanted] to share diverse perspectives and expose solo talents on stage,” Sangare said. “I find it crucial to let the students express themselves through whichever themes most attract them. This way, we can learn about ourselves to a great extent.”
Through the simplicity and the honesty of the solo pieces, this year’s Dialogue One stood by a quote from Sangare from which its name originated: “There are no monologues. You are involved in dialogue at least with the universe itself.” However, I could see the difficulty the performers had in seizing their rare opportunity on stage. There are endless possibilities and choices one can explore on stage in the given two minutes, and it takes a truly dedicated artist to use all of it well.
Although poetry was more heavily featured than other types of performances in the festival, every piece presented the expressive desires of the individual on stage, most of whom were enrolled in Sangare’s Acting I class this semester. Many routines were reflective of the personal lives of the speakers: Kamuela Lau ’14 gave an account of his day leading up to the festival performance (“I was folding my laundry … and suddenly realized I had to perform at ‘Dialogue One!’”), echoing ‘oh-no-I-haven’t-done-my-assignment’ panic well-known to Williams students. John Wickman ’13 shared a story of his crazy night out with his friends from home, while Julia Simon ’14 acted out her uncomfortable experience of suddenly being seen on stage while working as part of the technical crew for a show.
Others shared pieces of literature that spoke to their inspirations: Marissa Kimsey ’11 performed a poem titled The Stupid Jerk I’m Obsessed With, which spoke to the common experiences of love-hate crushes in the past. Taylor Mondshein ’13 performed the classic The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost, provoking a personal contemplation on my own life choices after Williams.
Uncountable numbers of questions and answers, errors and trials must be made to reach the full potential of any piece or performance. The performances of Dialogue One, in this sense, are still at a primary stage of preparation. At the same time, however, this added rawness to the performances that spoke to the audience in ways polished performances do not. In short, Dialogue One presented a showcase of talents embarking on their ways to even more agony and joy, allowing the audience a revealing and enjoyable sneak peak of what is to come.