The One Day Plays have become one of Wesleyan’s most highly anticipated theater traditions. Each semester, theater connoisseurs and stage newbies alike come together with one common mission: to put on an amazing show in approximately 24 hours while running on minimal sleep.
Dan Storfer ’15 has been the head coordinator of the One Day Plays for the past two semesters and previously helped Second Stage alum Lu Corporan ’13 run the production.
“I’m basically there every step of the way in one way or another,” Storfer said.
Being there every step of the way means being organized, even at 3 a.m. Actors, directors, and writers alike gather the Friday night before the performance, each bringing a prop to contribute to the writers’ inspiration. The actors and directors disperse at 10:30 p.m., leaving the writers to draft actors for their scripts and create a completed product by 5 a.m. Directors then pick their scripts at 6 a.m., without knowing their authors or their cast, and actors arrive at 7 a.m. to begin rehearsing. By 8 p.m., the ’92 is filled with an audience that is ready to see what the group has created.
Though the whole day is basically a nightmare tech week, with no one on book and no costumes ready just hours before the show, Storfer said things usually remain pretty calm throughout the majority of the day, with the exception being the dress rehearsal.
“We only have one dress rehearsal, but at the very beginning of the dress rehearsal that’s probably where it’s craziest because that’s where all the last minute changes [happen],” Storfer said. “Once we hit the 5 p.m. slot, then we fill the time however we can fill the time.”
Like Storfer, Coz Deicke ’15 is also well versed in the routine of the One Day Plays. This semester marked his second time writing for the production; he has also directed and acted in the One Day Plays in the past.
“I’ve done it five times, and I take it super seriously,” Deicke said.
Deicke attributes his particular writing strategy to his knowledge of all the different roles students can take on in the One Day Plays.
“[I] really try to think about the fact that this is going to be performed in 12 hours,” Deicke said. “[I] try to make it not too dialogue heavy, weird, have a lot of spectacle and physical movement to make it funny, and also change the pace.”
Deicke has a more competitive approach to the One Day Plays than some other participants and believes that the order in which a writer’s play is performed is a sign of its strength. This year, his play “Red Velvet” was performed first in the series.
“Red Velvet” incorporated 13 of the props brought in by the production team, including a Santa onesie, worn by Maddy Oswald ’14. The play started the evening off on an outrageous note, with Oswald narrating to the audience that she planned to lace her nether regions with poison in order to kill her cheating husband, Ward Archibald ’17, when he gave her oral sex. And yes, the onesie was present for the entirety of the sex scene.
Matthew Catron ’16, the director of “Red Velvet,” described the panic he felt when trying to choose a script in the overwhelming hour before the actors arrived on Saturday morning.
“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t read, what’s happening?’” Catron said. “I was trying to find a script to connect with; it was like speed dating. [Except] with scripts.”
The next short play came from Grace Herman-Holland ’15, entitled “The One with All the Kissing.” Though Herman-Holland claimed the play had nothing to do with “Friends,” the uncomfortable humor of watching four friends play an awkward game of Spin the Bottle at a Christmas party made it hard not to picture Rachel, Ross, and the rest of the gang.
Anthony Dean ’17 said that the rehearsal process for that play created a strong bond with his fellow castmates.
“We sat in the ’92 green room, and we played Spin the Bottle,” Dean said. “We had a great time; it was beautifully awkward.”
Though watching Dean, Sara Feldman ’17, Max Lee ’16, and Jessica Perelman ’17 swap spit at the mercy of a ginger ale bottle made the audience squirm a little, the peak of discomfort certainly came from Will McGhee ’17 and Will Stewart ’17’s “Seven is a Lucky Number.”
“I never knew you could make such a large group of people laugh so uncomfortably until I performed in ‘Seven is a Lucky Number,’” actor Melissa Leung ’16 wrote in an email to The Argus.
Melanie Parziale ’16’s New Jersey accent received some genuine laughter, but the audience had trouble picking an appropriate reaction when Becca Fredrick ’14 and Dan Bachman ’17 dropped their characters’ child to its death from the edge of the ’92 stage.
McGhee reported receiving some questions about the script throughout the day.
“I was woken up a few hours later by a call from Dan Bachman, our lead, who wanted to know if I could make macaroni art of Anne Frank as a prop for the show,” McGhee wrote in an email to The Argus. “I told him no and went back to sleep. The joke’s on him, though. We made him kill his child.”
Future One Day Play participants should be warned that they will always be at the mercy of their writers, no matter how murderous the script.
Josh Cohen ’14, Ben Zucker ’15, and Michelle Agresti ’14 came together under Lilly Holman ’15’s direction to bring Russell Goldman ’17’s “Hamlet in a Bus Shop” to life. The three began the short play as Hamlet characters Claudius, Hamlet, and Gertrude, respectively, before breaking character to reveal that they didn’t like or even understand the ridiculous plot line woven by Josh, the “director” of the show within the show.
“You might study for a big exam over a couple of weeks,” Holman said. “This is like a cram session…they’ve said [their lines] enough times over the last couple hours that they know [them] pretty well right off the bat.”
Holman confessed her nervousness about creating blocking and a set that would do justice to Goldman’s acting and writing. Her choice of a simple set, a lack of dependency upon props, and a blocking style that naturally built energy toward a final climactic chase around the theater allowed the audience to focus on the hilarity of the actors and the insane creativity of the plot.
“MUSICAL: The Play,” written by Lauren Langer ’16 and directed by May Treuhaft-Ali ’17 captured a moment in the life of a horrendous writer/director who could not take criticism to save herself. Alaska, played by Emma Hagemann ’17, became a hilarious caricature as she tried to justify the relevance of her musical’s opening scene in Egypt when the rest of the play was about a poor man who could not heat his house. Max Luton ’17, Uma Dieffenbach ’17, and Jenna Starr ’15 played three friends torn between keeping quiet to save Alaska’s ego (and their own skin) and revealing the clear truth that the show should not go on. They eventually reached a breaking point when each character sided with uninhibited honesty.
“We have pretty good chemistry as far as characters relating to each other, mostly thanks to May’s direction,” Luton said in the midst of rehearsal. “She’s instructing us a lot on, ‘Now while this person is talking to the audience or delivering the main line, I want you guys to be exchanging looks.’ That’s adding a lot of energy.”
Margaret Curtis ’16, Gabe Gordon ’15, and Emilie Pass ’15 teamed up to write “Cops on Broadway” and were the first of seven writing teams to finish. Much to every musical theater lover’s delight, the play’s main character was Patti LuPone.
“[I’m] living the dream,” said Jess Cummings ’17 on playing the role of the Tony Award winner.
Matthew Krakaur ’14 played an actor-turned-cop, wearing an amazing pair of metallic gold pants. The play spiraled into musical chaos as LuPone tried to convince the ex-musical star to help revamp her career.
Marianna Ilagan ’15 was not expecting to be asked to sing when she signed up for One Day Plays for the first time, but she did a beautiful job as she lamented her unrequited love for Krakaur through song.
“They’re all, like, musically trained,” Ilagan said. “And I’m like, well, I tried.”
The group agreed that its execution of the show was probably not what Curtis, Gordon, and Pass intended, but that creative license was part of the One Day Plays experience.
“Their visions did not match our visions,” Krakaur said with a laugh.
“A Real Knack For Magic,” written by Solomon Billinkoff ’14 and directed by Johnny LaZebnik ’16, wrapped up the evening with a playful depiction of the imagination of a child. Tawni Stoop ’15 played a little girl with a magician friend, who took the form of a smiley-face balloon and was voiced by Daniel Giovanniello ’17. The magician’s assistant was played by Jessica Wolinsky ’17, dressed outrageously as a clown. Her bubbly personality sharply contrasted that of her monotonous, cruel superior. The girl and the assistant clown magician befriended one another and experienced the type of magical relationship that can only be understood through the eyes of a child.
“It’s very funny…but it has a very big heart, and at the end there is something unexpected that you have to use your imagination to love,” Wolinsky said of the play.
Wolinsky was enthusiastic about having the opportunity to get to know people through the One Day Plays and to see the theatrical side of friends who decided to step out on a limb and try participating in the 24-hour productions.
The One Day Plays always produce a bizarre spectacle, and audience members and participants alike always enjoy relishing the quick bursts of creativity that come from Wesleyan students. As always, the plays proved that sleep is for the weak. Dean said it best as he described getting up at 6:30 a.m. as one of his favorite parts of the day:
“[I] don’t drink coffee,” he said. “I just have theater.”