Last weekend, the Directing Studio at the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance became an experimental laboratory for student playwrights. Over the course of the four-day festival Get Written Up, four Williams students shared their one-act plays with the public in a series of readings. The plays featured were What a Wire by Craig Corsi ’14, Get Life by Lizzie Stern ’14, Quarantine by Meagan Goldman ’16 and Mama Turns 70 by Steve Marino ’14. Four performances were held between last Thursday and last Saturday. Two plays were featured in each performance.
The plays presented during the festival were originally written in Artist-in-Residence Eisa Davis’ playwriting seminar. The plays have been workshopped heavily by the students and have only recently been staged for readings. Stern, who oversaw Get Written Up, explained to the audience prior to the performances that the plays were not final products and were still being worked out and revised.
I attended the Saturday night performance, which featured What a Wire by Corsi and Get Life by Stern. What a Wire is a humorous, though somewhat tragic, tale of the role of technology in society. The play revolves around Michael, a tech geek who runs his own YouTube series with his boyfriend Gary, who is more interested in his online games than the web show. Michael, who has been living with Gary’s family, aspires to work for a prestigious web company. It just so happens that Gary’s mother is dating the boss of the company and might possibly help Michael obtain his dream career.
The play presents the current and accurate dilemma of a technologically obsessed world. Throughout the play, Corsi constantly references the technology we heavily rely on, from video games, to the Internet, to texting. He cleverly uses the character dynamics and interactions to emphasize how our heavy reliance on technology has strained human relationships. The characters in the play are constantly distracted by texts. They struggle through awkward conversations, and face-to-face communications seem less than successful.
Corsi does an excellent job of building a believable storyline that starts off lightheartedly and comically and ends on a rather serious note. The change in the tone of the play causes viewers to stop and reconsider the themes Corsi has presented in a play. In only one act, Corsi successfully manages to develop every character sufficiently. Each one is unique with his or her personal quirks. These small details truly make the characters seem closer to reality and the cast of What a Wire was definitely sensitive to this. Their acting choices and their vocal intonations also helped to bring out each character’s personality.
The second play presented that night was Get Life by Lizzie Stern, which is about a Georgetown freshman, Ella, who is filled with self-doubt and haunted by the high expectations of her late grandmother. Upon arriving home, Ella is greeted by her neighbor and friend Nick, who is the polar opposite of her and her parents.
Get Life touches on the real worries and concerns of teenagers and college students. Ella’s brooding character often represents the expectations that burden many students. Her desire to please her grandmother and parents is strong and realistically portrayed. Ella’s friend Nick represents the opposite, the freedom of students who value the experience and are looking for a good time. The powerful themes are the gems of Stern’s play. The conversations between Ella and Nick are candid, raw and genuine, which makes the play extremely relatable, especially to teenagers. With the actors being students themselves, the play became real in many ways.
Both Corsi and Stern demonstrated a strong grasp on human relations and reality. Both plays were incredibly believable. Nevertheless, each play was different and reflected Corsi’s and Stern’s personalities. The plays showed their individual styles as artists. Stern’s voice, in particular, could be heard even in the humorous stage directions of Get Life. Both plays were entertaining, though at times the comedy was a bit too much. Corsi and Stern dealt with somewhat heavy topics and occasionally, the humor was a bit overdone and took away from the scene.
Because Get Written Up consisted of staged readings of short plays, it was a very different entertainment experience. The lack of sets and costumes allowed audience members to enjoy the two plays for their written worth and focus on the message of the play. The plays were stripped naked of any embellishments that might add aesthetically to the show. Instead, the written words carried the play and shone a spotlight on the students who wrote them. Despite the minimalist experience, the considerable talent of these young playwrights shone through.