Dialogue One offers gripping, intense solo performances

On Friday night, an acting class let loose in Goodrich Hall under a few spotlights in a series of energetic solo performances. The Dialogue One Solo Theatre Festival showcases “solo theatre” that is separate from monologues: It aims for performers to create a dialogue with the audience through shocking stories, whether they are personal, funny, scary or sad. The presentations making up Dialogue One do not feel snobbish or self-congratulatory; the performers are not talking to themselves or the heavens, but to the audience – to you. The experience felt more like an intimate gathering of friends rather than a top-down performance.

Dialogue One was comprised of about 18 students’ short two-minute “dialogues” with the audience, starting with a personal piece about a tennis player who found himself with over four separate injuries in the same wrist. His story was followed by stories of desperate Williams Outdoor Orientation Learning for First-Years adventures, drunken bar fights in Chinese clubs, a first-time arrest, porn in the classroom and multinational Judo champion “Headlock Helen.”

Students’ performances varied, as they had the freedom to choose how they enacted their dialogues. One chose to take a phone call and treat the performance as if she were telling a story to her sister; others used props or chairs to reenact or tell their stories.

One of my favorite performances was what seemed to be a true story about a girl who got kicked out of Tunnel City Coffee. She spoke about how she ended up in the well-known coffee shop on Spring Street with a bagel and coffee from Goodrich because her professor had moved their appointment to an earlier time. The owner kicked her out because of the coffee and bagel, but as she was leaving, her professor came and insisted that it was alright for her to sit back down: She had been friends with the owner and a loyal customer for years. The story ended with unexpected drama, as the student was kicked out a second time while her professor dumped coffee into the bushes and threw refunded money onto the floor. Turns out, her professor won’t be going back to Tunnel City Coffee any time soon.

At the end of the performances, everyone in the audience was given a Post-It note and instructed to write their favorite story from the performance down on it. The winner was Irene Castillo ’16, who told the story of an unexpected phone call she received one day. Already the oldest of three, she found out from her dad that her mother was pregnant with another sibling. Castillo proceeded to excitedly reenact her reactions to this surprise. After winning, she told the audience that her mother is now three months pregnant with a boy; she is but nervous yet excited at the idea of being an older sister to another sibling. Over these past few months, she has become acutely aware of how much of an age gap there will be between her brother and herself; this realization has given her the unusual sensation of already feeling old.

Dialogue One only lasted an hour, and there was an exceptional selection of snacks that I was happy to feast on as I watched. For viewers out there who are looking for a less intimate, more theatrical and more diverse version of Storytime, be sure to look for the next set of Dialogue One performances.