Students were political canvassers, escape room artists, physicists, fashionistas, inventors, thought leaders, collaborators, activists, change agents, and boat builders, among many other identities, during Project Week 2019.
The concept sounds like the premise of an episode of Mission: Impossible: memorize, block, rehearse, tech, and perform a five-minute play in front of an audience . . . all within 24 hours! (Actually, when you figure in time for sleep, it’s more like 13 hours, but who’s counting?)
For the first time, the Drama Department presented a “24-Hour Play Festival” this spring, open to any interested students, and more than 20 boys and girls—all of whom have participated in drama at Pingry, whether through classes or extracurricular activities—signed up for the challenge. Drama Department Chair Stephanie Romankow borrowed the idea from theater colleagues at other schools, particularly colleges. “We created a version for Pingry, using material that was already scripted,” she says of the 10 plays that she found in an anthology and made available to student directors. They were allowed to choose five.
Once the plays were chosen, the groups were randomly assembled with multiple grade levels represented (Mrs. Romankow wanted the students out of their comfort zones, but did ask their preferences vis-à-vis acting, directing, and being “techies”), and off they went to begin rehearsals. Here, a few participants describe the experience in their own words:
Alivia Clark ’22 (Ava in Anne Flanagan’s Ava Maria)
“I’ve never really done anything like this before—in other words, it wasn’t just acting, but the whole production. Even the festival’s name was enticing and exciting! We had so much fun, sitting up in Hauser [Auditorium], running lines with each other in a circle. It brought you closer to more people. The whole experience reinforced the idea of ‘theater,’ that it comes from the people who put it on, and comes from passion. If you put in enough effort, you can do it. Everybody did their part, whether tech, acting, or directors, and it shocked me how well the productions came together professionally in such a limited amount of time. It was a blast, and I recommend it to everybody!”
Sarah Gagliardi ’22 (Mark in Peter Sagal’s Game Theory)
“I want to pursue theater because you get to tell a story and bring a story to life, and I love to look into the audience and see the awe on people’s faces. This festival was an opportunity work with friends in a meaningful way. It sounded really fun, and it was fun—fun to condense the theater process, fun to see all aspects of theater happening in front of you at the same time, with costumes thrown at you, and lighting worked on as you rehearsed. It was cool to see what else goes into the process, behind-the-scenes. I don’t have much experience with lighting or directing, but I was part of all the processes!”
Adelaide Lance ’21 (Julianne in Richard Lagravenese’s Recess)
“As soon as I heard about the 24-Hour Play Festival, I wanted to join it. I love doing everything related to drama, and it is a huge part of my life. We are all like family in the Drama Department, so I was excited to spend this one last performance with some of these people. I was also excited to be part of the first-ever 24-hour play—it allowed me to make my mark on Pingry, being part of the first one of its kind. Although it was hard work, it was so much fun. Our scenes weren’t very complex with staging, but we had less than 24 hours to work through the play. It was quite hard to memorize lines that quickly, and I was still memorizing them just before I went onstage, but I was determined to go onstage without a script and even improve a bit if I forgot a line. I went into this entire thing a bit nervous [about] if we would be able to pull it off in time . . . but I learned than if I just believe in myself, I can do anything, even with a crazy small amount of time. I would love to do this again.”
Sonia Talarek ’20 (Paul in Peter Sagal’s Game Theory)
“There wasn’t a three-month-long buildup to three short performance nights, but just a day to put together something interesting. The shortened timeline made the performance more casual. The experience showed me how much people (myself included) can get done when they put in the effort. I had no idea that my peers and I were capable of developing an actual performance in such a short period of time. In under a day, we had a blocked, nearly memorized, cohesive performance. Yes, the show had some imperfections, but they always do. I skipped a few lines, but it was a show! It was less about impressing the audience and more about sharing something with them. I’m really glad I participated and would love to do it again.”
Asked about their performances, and the lead-up, Mrs. Romankow’s eyes light up. “The kids were amazing! What they did in a few hours . . .! They were definitely motivated by the creative challenge, to try something new. One student really wanted to direct for the first time, so it’s wonderful that this event provided that opportunity.”
Pictured: Students participating in a session of improvisation.
Contact: Greg Waxberg ’96, Communications Writer