• Tuesday, May 10, 2011
  • 24 Hour Play Festival, and New Works I

    I’m ending the first year of my MFA at USC in a good place.

    This past weekend we had the 24 Hour Play Festival at USC- the MFA writers get assigned topics and actors on Saturday, we each write a 10 minute play, we turn over the scripts to the actors and directors on Sunday, they rehearse all day, and the show goes up at 7pm that evening, featuring the world premieres of 9 brand new plays, all created within the space of 24 hours!

    The theme this year was ‘Traumatic Childhood Memories’, and all the writers volunteered real traumatic memories from our childhoods, and we drew them out of a hat. So I got Cort Brinkerhoff’s traumatic memory of his brother being left alone in a rest stop in the middle of the Utah desert for two hours. And I drew three brilliant actors from the MFA pool- Kyle Gundlach, Kate Williams and Amin El Gamal- and I knew they all could sing. Really well. And I like writing in verse.

    So I wrote a play in verse, and on Sunday, I told them we could add music to it “if we liked”. At the table read they just started improvising the music to the lines, and it sounded amazing! I never knew it could be done that way. I directed my own play, and it was such a pleasure to get actors who were not only talented and smart, but nice and hardworking too.

    The final product was a joyful mess, as befits a 24 hour play, and I loved it.

    Yesterday was the New Works Festival I, a reading of the 2nd semester plays by the 1st year MFAs. My classmates and I had our plays read in a long day of consecutive readings- from 10AM – 4.15PM. It was great, though, to see and hear the plays we’d been working on and living with all semester be brought to life, or as much as they could be in a cold reading.

    I was especially gratified with the reading of my play ‘A Nice Indian Boy’. I don’t think the actors could have done a better job. I’d written the roles with these actors in my head- all people I knew and liked- and it was like a dream come true to see them bring these imaginary people to life. They got those characters right away, they hit all the beats just as I’d pictured it… It was thrilling for me, on a personal level, and I was so happy and relieved at the positive response it got. Let’s see where this play goes.

    And I got my first blog review! 🙂 Thanks to Paul Rockower for coming and blogging about it immediately after. 🙂

    Now to pack for home, and turn off my brain for a little bit. Summer is beginning.