Sunday, March 21, 2010

Judging Wired VII

I spent the majority of my college years at what was then Trenton State College, a respectable state school with a reputation for turning out teachers and nurses. Theatre majors were few, but that meant we all got to participate in a large number of shows in a great many capacities, both on and backstage. It's where I learned to design scenery and costumes; stage manage; build props and apply stage makeup, along with acting and directing, while working on as many as six shows a year. Its where a wonderful professor taught me how to use my basso profundo to its fullest effect on stage, and another taught me how to fill the pauses in Chekhov. I have many fond memories of TSC, though now its The College of New Jersey, a consistently top-rated public college with an ever-changing and expanding campus.

And I still do theatre there as a member of Shakespeare '70, the Classical Company in unofficial residence at TCNJ. It's where I directed The Skin of Our Teeth and where for the second year in a row, I have been privileged to be invited as an alumni judge for WIRED, an annual 24-hour student play competition. Participants have 24 hours to write, cast, rehearse and produce a 15 to 20 minute-long play, all of which have certain conditions applied to them as the writing process goes on. Whatever play they wrote, had to reflect the plays' theme, which this year was Aesop's Fables. Each play had to tell a story that represented a moral from each team's pre-selected fable. Each team was also assigned a particular genre. Twists were added at irregular intervals, which also had to be part of the show. It went something like this:

8:00 PM: Adjudicators assign each team their fable and genre, as well as which type of crazy prop they must use in a way that makes sense. The writers start throwing ideas around.

9:00 PM: The writers receive their first twist: Each play must quote Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance."

10:00 PM: The second twist: Each play must have a character who stuffs his/her face with food at some point.

And so on. You get the idea. Each play also had to have a monologue in which the speaker reveals some dark secret from his/her past. Of course, being college kids, they all strive to be as hilarious as they can. And quite honestly, there was no shortage of laughs (both juvenile and insightful, mostly aimed at pop culture references). The plays presented were: Wish Granted; Papa Mia; Invasion of Chaos with Buckaroo Banzai & the Teleportation Device and Granny Mae's Samurai Smackdown. They were all very funny and outre and geeky all at once (Wish Granted started with a 'Dungeons and Dragons' type RPG being played, while Papa Mia pointedly spoofed the Abba musical from which it took its name). Some of thethings they tried worked beautifully; some worked better than others and some... not so much.

The show that almost swept the awards was Granny Mae's Samurai Smackdown, which won Best Actress (my ridiculously dirty dirty-girl Maddie, playing a ridiculously dirty old lady with great glee and amazingly perfect comic timing), Best Writing and Best Play. The award for Best Actor went to a young man in Invasion of Chaos... who gave his completely hilarious revealing soliloquy as a series of nonsensical words and syllables which somehow made perfect Star Wars sense (you had to be there), thanks to the young man's extraordinary delivery. Invasion... was co-written by my Go-Go Elf, Matty, whom I discovered as an actor while judging last Year's WIRED, where he played about 6 different hilarious characters (including Hitler) in one piece.

Although I was only there for the last 2 hours of the event, by the end, I was nearly as exhausted as the students were (though I suspect that has more to do with Uncle P's age, than anything else). After a drink or two with my co-judges, I came home and collapsed, too tired to do much more than check my mail and post an apology on The Zombie Zone.

Still, the evening (despite many obstacles - including 2 snow-related postponements), was a rousing success. Creativity was encouraged and rewarded, students engaged in some friendly competition and more than a few nerves were frazzled, when all was said and done. The entire theatre experience in one exhaustive day! I wish ther ehad been a WIRED when I was a student there. I can only imagine what might have come out of those competitions. Kudos to the all of the students who participated in WIRED. I hope to be asked back as a judge again, because I had myself a wonderful, exhilarating and hilarious evening of Theatre-by-the-Seat-of-Your-Pants last night. Bravo!

More, anon.

1 comment:

Stephen said...

When you try to manage more than one blog, you will always break someone's heart. You are a very busy young man!