If you’ve ever had the urge to write a play, you can get your feet wet beginning Wednesday, May 22, when Once Upon a Weekend kicks off. The playwriting and performing marathon is part of “The Big Idea,” a one-week festival meant to showcase the talents of undergraduates. In fact, playwriting is the one festival activity in which faculty and staff will be eligible to actively participate; for the rest, you’re invited as a spectator at any and all events, which include everything from improvisation to song and dance routines to a full-length play.
“There have been a number of drama school events that happen this time of year every year,” says festival producer Roni Weiss, a senior in drama. “I thought it would be exciting to package the whole thing in a festival and give undergraduates a concentrated time to shine.”
Here’s how Once Upon a Weekend works. On Wednesday, May 22, a topic will be posted at 9:30 a.m. Writers have until 5:30 p.m. Thursday to produce a script for a 5-minute play on that topic. Some of those scripts will be chosen and handed out to directors and actors on Friday. They will be performed at 10:30 p.m. Saturday, May 25 in the Cabaret Theater in Hutchinson.
“Shanga Parker, who heads the undergraduate program in drama, brought Once Upon a Weekend from Brown University, where he did his undergraduate work,” Weiss says. “We open up the writing to the whole University community, but the acting, directing and designing will all be done by undergraduates.”
Once Upon a Weekend is just one event in the festival. The most traditional entry is a series of performances of Steven Dietz’s Dracula, slated for May 16–19 in the Cabaret. Dracula is one of the regular productions sponsored by the Undergraduate Theater Society. On the other end of the formality scale are two performances of The Collective, the UW’s improvisation group. They’ll be seen on May 19 and again on May 24 — in late-night shows after productions at the Cabaret are over.
The Binge Festival, scheduled for May 23–25, gives drama students a chance to go beyond the usual dramatic fare to other kinds of performance art. Presentations, none of which lasts more than 30 minutes, have included dance, poetry reading and songs. They’ll be given in two shows of two hours each.
New this year is Senior Spotlight, a series of 2- to 5-minute scenes presented by the graduating seniors of the drama school on May 20 and 21.
“The graduating class of the Professional Actor Training Program (for graduate students) has always had this kind of program,” Weiss says. “My classmate John Martin wanted undergraduates to have a similar chance to showcase what they’ve done and have a sense of completion, so he’s coordinating the Senior Spotlight.”
Senior Spotlight will be presented on May 20 and 21 at the Ethnic Cultural Theatre. It will be followed by faculty forums, with Jon Jory on May 20 and Herbert Blau on May 21. Also at that theater will be a 10-minute play festival, running as part of the U District Street Fair May 18 and 19.
An all-festival pass can be obtained for The Big Idea Festival for $15. Most individual events are $5. For further information or tickets, call the Big Idea hotline, 206-934-6230 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Festival proceeds will go to the Undergraduate Theater Society.