PMA Podcast Transcript: Episode 9, 10-Minute Play Festival: Unbound
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Chris: Hello, and welcome to episode 9 of the PMA podcast. I am your co-host today, Christopher Christensen. Today joining us in the Black Box Theatre is Lindsey White. Lindsey, say hello.
Lindsey: Hello everyone. So I am the Communications Manager for the Department of Performing and Media Arts, so I am thrilled to be here with Chris today and two of our guests. Chris, do you want to go ahead and introduce them?
Chris: Sure. So we’ve got Julia Dunetz. Julia, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Julia: Hi everyone. Um, I’m Julia. I’m a junior right now at Cornell, um, and I’m one of the two co-producers of this year’s 10-Minute Playfest.
Chris: Fantastic, and Sam Blake.
Sam: Good morning. I am a second-year PhD student here in the Performing and Media Arts department, and I am the other co-host—or co-
Sam: [Continued] the other co-producer.
Chris: Well it is your second time on the podcast, right?
Sam: That’s right.
Chris: Or no, your third time on the podcast?
Sam: Third time? No, second time.
Chris: No, just second time?
Sam: Second time.
Chris: Okay, so you’re jumping up to co-host already.
Sam: I know, I know.
Chris: We’ve got three co-hosts.
Sam: Look out.
Sam: It’s going to be intense.
Chris: So why are we here? What are we talking about today? 10-Minute Playfest?
Sam: 10-Minute Playfest.
Julia: 10-Minute Playfest.
Chris: Alright, and, uh, what’s the title of it?
Lindsey: 10-Minute Playfest: Unbound. It’s opening in two days. Um, we’re recording this on a Tuesday so, uh, it’s opening Thursday, uh, September 28, um, here in the Black Box Theatre at the Schwartz Center, and it’s running—we’ve got a Thursday night show at 7:30, Friday at 5:00 p.m., and Sunday, October 1 we’ve got two shows: a matinee at 2:00 and then an evening show at 7:30.
Chris: How we doing on ticket sales?
Lindsey: We are doing pretty great. Um, the Friday show is nearly sold out, so get those tickets soon. I know there are some still available, especially for Sunday’s two shows. Um, so there’s definitely a chance to still jump on that and you can get those, um, they’re $5 for all tickets at schwartztickets.com, or you can come to the Box Office from Monday to Saturday, 1 to 8 the Box Office is open.
Chris: Well, tell us a little bit about the play—plays, plural.
Sam: Plays, yes. Six of them, actually.
Sam: All student-written—Cornell students. A mix of graduate and undergraduate, um, student writers, um, a mix of undergraduate and graduate directors, um, two graduate dramaturgs, and um, a bunch of undergraduate and at least one—
Julia: And graduate actors, yeah.
Sam: And graduate actors.
Julia: It’s a fun mix. I mean, there’s probably over thirty people involved in the entire production.
Julia: Um, and then together we have, uh, six ten-minute plays altogether, and it’s really exciting. It’s really coming together right now.
Sam: Yeah, it’s—what really excites me about 10-Minute Play Festival every year is that it both seems to be a great venue to bring, uh, people who have not been connected to the department before in, in some capacity, whether they’re performing for the first time or helping out with tech. Um, a lot of first-years find themselves in roles in 10-Minute Playfest and then continue to do work in the department. Um, some even become minors and majors.
Sam: And, um, it’s also—really the only space for this kind of collaboration across graduate and undergraduate programs. I mean, there are other, um, shows that graduate students direct, but to have this like mix of actors, directors, producers now, I mean, this is the first time it’s being co-produced, but it’s been a phenomenal experience, so um—
Julia: Yeah, I mean, it’s been really fun, um, because Sam and I really have different styles. Um, I think it’s nice that we can work together and, uh, I think we really complement each other in our producing styles, which has been really fun.
Sam: Yeah, it’s been great.
Chris: I always ask people, are there challenges that you have encountered in the process? Anything you’ve worked through together that you’ve had to, uh…?
Julia: I mean, it’s a long process. We started almost a year ago now in looking for our plays that we eventually are putting up now—
Julia: [Continued] and I think, um, I’m super into the organizing and, uh, so I’m very much on top of the scheduling, whereas Sam is better at, um, maybe the mentoring of our directors and, um, I think we are able to help each other with the things that the other is not as great at, maybe?
Sam: Definitely, definitely. I don’t think it’s been a challenge. I think it’s been a real, um, a real boon to have, um, this collaboration.
Julia: Yeah, for sure.
Sam: And it just—it speaks to the festival again as a whole. The more collaboration, I think, cross-graduate and undergraduate, um, students there is, the stronger the festival becomes each year.
Lindsey: And how did the two of you come to be involved as co-producers?
Sam: Um, I think it happened—well so we, after last year’s festival, um, it just—the festival’s been growing in sort of size and scope in a lot of ways, and Caitlin [Kane] was the producer last year, and she was like, “This really feels like a job for two people,” um, you know, and so there aren’t many graduate students in the department and, um, we sort of trade off each—usually incoming folks get slotted to produce this, so I was a first-year last year so I decided to take on the producing job, but I was like, “I want help,” like, uh, and I know this right away. I watched Caitlin do it and I was like, “Nope!”
[Chris and Lindsey laugh].
Sam: “That’s not...I’m not doing, doing that alone,” um, so.
Julia: So then Jayme Kilburn, who is, she is also a graduate student and she produced a couple years back, she was my TA for Directing I, and she knew that I had an interest in producing and I had some experience with it, um, so she said maybe this would be a fit, and then Sam and I met and we kind of—
Julia: [Continued] went off from there.
Sam: In fact, that first meeting was—I think you were coming in to really sell yourself, and I was like, “Hey, want to produce a thing?”
Julia: Like, “Sure!” So, the rest was history.
Chris: Oh, fantastic. Um, production-wise what are we seeing in terms of inside some of the tech aspects of this play, or these plays? This production.
Sam: Um, well it’s been exciting. We have both a sound and a lighting designer. Um, so the Black Box generally comes with just sort of twelve preset looks that you can use for your lights—
Sam: [Continued] which is fine, but it does limit, sort of, choices for directors when they want to stage certain things or do something kind of specific, and so Jayme, uh, Kilburn, graduate student, jumped—she’s doing a lot in this festival.
Sam: Um, and, uh, she is a lighting designer for us.
Julia: And she’s doing some great work, um, so she’s able to do more specific looks other than those twelve, um, so we’re able to really highlight different areas of the stage and, um, do some really cool stuff, and then Mabel Lawrence is our sound designer, um, which is fantastic. We have some really cool, fun sound cues. We’re even using some projection, um, so.
Chris: Oh, fantastic.
Chris: And it’s all working now?
Sam: And it’s all working now.
Julia: It’s all working!
Sam: It’s all working.
Sam: So yeah.
Lindsey: Um, Sam, do you want to talk a little bit about the Assoc—Association for Graduates in Theatre?
Sam: Oh, sure! Um, we—that is a group that was formed, you know, I’m not entirely sure how long it’s been around. I think it got started somewhere between five and seven-ish years ago. Um, the graduate students felt a need to sort of organize within the department, I think, a little bit, and there was a shift, really, that was going on at the time between, um, the graduate program had been really, um, focused on bringing graduate students who were not interested in doing practice and that, um, that changed dramatically sort of starting five to seven years ago, and, um, the job market has changed too. Really, there are very few professor positions now that do not want you to have some kind of experience and often expect you to direct as part of a university season in whatever theatre department. So, it—many of us, in fact the majority of us now in the graduate program, um, have interest in some type of theatre-making or practice, or filmmaking for those from the media focus in our midst. But so it’s a way for us to organize and, um, support each other, um, support each other’s work, and sort of present a more unified front to the department in terms of like, “Hey, we’d like to advocate for a spot in the Black Box,” which we didn’t used to have for like productions that we do, and then we also advocated for the 10-Minute Playfest; that was the graduate students in the beginning saying, “We would like to have a space for new work,” and so that’s what that group is for.
Lindsey: And so this 10-Minute Playfest coming up, um, September 28 to October 1, themed unbound, this is actually the fifth annual—
Sam: It is.
Lindsey: [Continued] 10-Minute Playfest—
Sam: It is the fifth annual.
Lindsey: [Continued] and brought, uh, brought to you by the Association for Graduates in Theatre—AGIT—and the Department of Performing and Media Arts.
Chris: Do we want to talk about some of the plays, uh, individually?
Julia: Yeah. Um, so we have six great plays, and they all have a range of topics, um, which is really cool. Uh, so the first play is Miss Anne—
Julia: [Continued] uh, written by Kristen Wright, and it talks about police brutality, um, and it’s a really, really great piece that’s super relevant right now, and I think, um, this is actually the one that uses the projections so it’s very cool visually, um, and I think it’s going to be a really moving—a really moving piece.
Sam: Yeah, it speaks directly to what’s happening right now across the country in terms of anti-Black police violence, and it’s a—I think it’s a powerful way to start the festival.
Julia: Yeah, and then our next piece is Booty Call, written by Teagan Todd.
[Chris and Lindsey laugh].
Julia: Um, definitely a little bit different, um, but—
Chris: On the lighter-hearted side?
Julia: Yes, uh, it’s actually—it’s still, I mean, it is lighthearted, um, however it is, I think, equally, um—
Sam: Yeah, I think.
Julia: [Continued] poignant.
Sam: Very much so.
Julia: Uh, it’s written by Teagan Todd, directed by Jillian Berkowtiz, and it’s, um, it focuses on three college-aged women and their experiences with men and all the things that they want to say to them but are not able to actually say to them. Um, and it’s a really, really great piece as well. Um, this one, I think, is really cool and has a different structure than a lot of the other pieces in the play.
Sam: Yeah, definitely, and it’s beautifully staged, um, and, um, has, you know, really just surprises me constantly throughout but especially at the end, so—
Sam: [Continued] I think people will enjoy that one.
Julia: I agree, yes. There’s some secrets in it, but you have to come to see them. Um, and then the third play is Sangre Y Agua, written by Irving Torres, and, uh, directed by Kelly Richmond.
Sam: Which, as far as I know, and I could be wrong about this because I don’t have all five years of past productions of 10-Minute Play Festival under my belt, but I believe it’s our first Spanish-language play, or, and it’s about half in Spanish and half in English, so it’s a multilingual family, and I think very powerfully—originally the idea was to subtitle the Spanish and that decision was cut both by the director and the playwright to really just allow, um, people to sit in either understanding or not what some of the actors are saying and having to piece together information based on what the sort of English language responses are, at least for me, I don’t speak Spanish so I think it’s, uh, a beautiful effect actually and really challenges, um, sort of our assumptions about language.
Lindsey: And, um, you mentioned the playwright, Irving Torres-Lopez, um, so he—and is this sort of a precursor to his—he’s got a full-length play coming to the Schwartz Center in the spring in the Black Box, uh, Current | Corriente.
Lindsey: That’s his original play, so it’s great that he has an opportunity to present this shorter work as well.
Sam: Yeah, and I don’t know how the two are—I don’t know if there’s any relation between the two—
Sam: [Continued] but he’s definitely been flexing his playwright muscles, so...
Julia: And then our next play is Method Acting—
Julia: [Continued] written by Julia Shebek. Um, that’s a really fun one, uh, to have after we’ve had some more serious plays, um, and it’s a comedy. It’s about, uh, this celebrity who is going into therapy because she’s been method acting for all of these years and she can’t find her own identity.
Sam: Yeah, she doesn’t know who she is. She’s just an amalgamation of her characters. Um, so she is having a little trouble [laughs] existing in life.
Sam: Yeah, and then...
Julia: Next we have Six Thousand Five Hundred and Seventy, written by Madeleine Gray, um, which is another really great piece. Um, it’s basically a one-woman play, um, that focuses on a woman writing a letter to, um, well I don’t want to spoil anything, but it’s a really great piece and super emotional, um, and tells a story of a woman and a child, um yeah.
Julia: Anything to add?
Sam: Yeah, I think that it’s—just having a one-woman show, um, really just an extended monologue is another beautiful playing with format that this festival’s doing that’s exciting to me. Yeah, and finally we have A Fresh Start, written by Jayme Kilburn, uh.
Julia: And starring Jayme Kilburn.
Sam: And starring Jayme Kilburn because she is doing everything in this festival, but really she wrote it very much, this character has, um, yeah. It comes from a personal experience, I think—
Sam: [Continued] and then she just put the Jayme Kilburn twist on it.
Julia: Yes, it’s a really, really fun play and a great way to end the whole festival. Um, it’s just super crazy, um, and fun, and big, and bright, and colorful, and—
Chris: Jayme, she’s just full of all sorts of color, brightness, and joy.
Sam: Any time you have both goldfish and bed bugs as stage characters speaking lines in a play I get excited, so...
Chris: Oh, very good.
Lindsey: Yes, something—something unique. And Jayme also is another student who will be presenting a full-length play, or directing a full-length play in the spring, and she’s going to be doing the mainstage show—
Lindsey: [Continued] coming up at the Schwartz Center in the Kiplinger Theatre, and that’s going to be Mr. Burns, a post-electric play, and that is one I’m—I personally am really excited for.
Lindsey: So again, this is—10-Minute Playfest is a great way to get little bits and pieces of, um, all the talent that’s here in this department—
Lindsey: [Continued] and look forward to more.
Sam: I feel like I should, now, because we’ve mentioned it several times, um, I feel like I should say something about unbound.
Sam: Um, but so this, um, it’s become sort of a tradition that each festival is organized around a theme, um, that gets proposed, um, to the department, um as part of the festival, you know, as part of the proposal for the festival and, um, this year I proposed unbound when—that proposal is due back in October of last year, so this was October 2016, um, and it was both in response to what was going to be this year’s, and is this year’s department theme, which is escape, um, but also I was thinking a great deal at that time about the impending election, um, and some of the rhetoric that was coming out of it, um, and, uh, especially surrounding boundaries, and walls, and borders, and, um, that just, um, the notion of unbound, um, felt, um, particularly resonant at that time and, uh, especially in the context of theatre—what ways does theatre allow us to think otherwise or think outside of, um, uh, a current reality—
Sam: [Continued] or current, you know, current life situation to be able to step outside of that? Um, but at the same time in what ways are there still bonds or, um, ways that we are bonded to one another that we want to preserve or, um, cherish? So it felt like a way to both push against certain things that were topical and remain topical, um, and also to think through, um, unbound and more broadly escape with the department.
Julia: Yeah, and I think some of our plays obviously touch on that unbound theme like Miss Anne and Sangre Y Agua, and some of the other plays it’s more subtle, but I think all of them definitely relate to that theme of what are our boundaries—
Julia: [Continued] what is unbound?
Sam: Yeah, and even if they don’t do it within the text per se, many of them do it structurally. Many of them do it in ways through their making, through their construction that, yeah so that’s that theme.
Chris: That being said, uh, I always ask people when the audience leaves, what are you hoping is going through their minds as they step out? What do you hope the takeaway is? Or who do you hope your audience is? Do we have a sense of 10-Minute Playfests in the past? Has it been more students?
Sam: It has typically been more students.
Sam: It’s typically heavy on undergrads, um.
Julia: And especially because we have such a massive cast and crew, um, a lot of their friends and family are coming.
Sam: Um, I think beyond, um, just having an enjoyable evening of theatre, um, I would hope audience members walk away with being, um, challenged, uh, by at least one of six really quite, uh, beautiful and, um, very different plays, um, and I hope at least one of those plays would speak to everyone in the audience, and it’s probably going to be a different one for each person—
Sam: [Continued] but, um, that they walk out just sort of having maybe encountered a point of view or a scenario that they hadn’t thought of, um, and that it just, um, asks them to ponder that for even a moment.
Julia: Yeah, I—to echo that I think if they walk away thinking about at least one of them, having a conversation about it, letting it, you know, help them think about the world and other things in their lives, I think that would be a great thing if people walk away feeling.
Chris: Okay. Anything else?
Julia: I think we’re just really proud of the work everyone has done, and we really hope everyone comes out.
Sam: Come to the show.
Julia: Yeah! Come to the show. Our tickets are going fast so, uh, we definitely want everyone to have an opportunity, um, to see these six really, really beautiful student-written, directed, and acted productions.
Julia: It’ll be really great!
Chris: Alright, fantastic. Sam, Julia, thanks so much for joining us on the podcast, and Lindsey, first time here, thanks so much.
Lindsey: Yes, happy to be here and thanks for having me, and—
Chris: More to come.
Lindsey: Sure. Yes, more to come.
Sam: Thank you.
Julia: Yeah, thanks for having us.
Sam: Thank you, yeah.
Lindsey: Thank you.
Chris: Thanks for listening to the PMA podcast. Performances of the 10-Minute Playfest: Unbound are in the Schwartz Center’s Black Box Theatre September 28 through October 1. Tickets can be purchased online at schwartickets.com or in person at the Schwartz Center Box Office, located at 430 College Avenue, Ithaca, New York.