Student playwrights, directors, and actors participate in New Plays in Two Days

Kasey Marshall (C’20) and Caiti Berends (C’20) in Jamon Iberico, written by Carlos zayas-Pons. Photo by Luke Williamson (C’21).

Luke Williamson
Executive Staff

Sewanee’s Theatre Department and Outside the Box Theatre recently put on its second annual New Plays in Two Days, an event where students have only two days to write, direct, rehearse, and perform plays created in response to a prompt decided by Playwright-in-Residence Elyzabeth Wilder and a prop, given to them at random. The plays took place in the Studio Theatre at the Tennessee Williams Center.

This year, there were six 10-minute plays. Whether reimagining the famed story of Daedalus and Icarus, or creating a story about a pair of friends who find themselves lost in the Andes Mountains, the six plays different but bound together by their common prompt: “It was a pleasure to burn.”

Playwrights picked the names of their directors out of a hat, after which the directors picked out actors’ names. It was then up to the playwrights to craft a play based on the actors and the prop that they had.

“Jamon Iberico,” written by Carlos Zayas-Pons (C’20), a veteran writer of New Plays, who also portrayed the title character in “Icarus”, stated that one of the most valuable aspects of New Plays in Two Days is how the time constraint encourages a creative burst and sense of urgency that propels the script-writing process.

New “Play” written by Kasy Marshall. Photo by Luke Williamson (C’21).

Indeed, playwrights had exactly 24 hours to write, edit, and deliver their eight to 10 page scripts to their respective directors, who then commenced rehearsals with their actors. Each director was given one hour in the Studio Theatre on the day of the performances for a tech run.

Caroline Graham (C’21), an actor in “Burning Revenge,” said that for her, some of the most challenging aspects of the acting exercise were also the most rewarding. With that being said, she did emphasize that learning so many lines last minute was very stressful.

Even so, none of the actors forgot their lines, and both hour-long shows in the evening went smoothly.

Greer King (C’21) spoke about how the event has grown since its first year last year: “Last year’s was a huge success; we actually had people sitting on the floor because we didn’t have enough seats, so this year we planned to have two showings and extra seats in order to accommodate more people.”

Icarus, written by Mandy Tu. Above: actors Carlos Zayas-Pons (C’20) and Nathaniel Klein (C’22). Photo by Luke Williamson (C’21).

Sarah Mixon (C’21), treasurer of the Outside the Box Theatre, took the overcrowding aspect into account and implemented the EventBrite online ticket system. She was also in charge of designing the programs for the show, which she enjoyed.

“I never got to do house managing in high school so I’m having a great time experiencing a new area of theatre production,” she said.

With two showings, the Theatre department was able to show off the hard work of the participants to an ever-appreciative Sewanee community.

New Plays in Two Days is one of my favorite events of the year,” said Briana Wheeler (C’20). “It demonstrates the creative ingenuity of our students. There’s a sense of unification throughout the show as people trace out the prompt, but due to different experiences, each show is vastly different from the one before. I love going every year, and I hope they keep doing it!”