A version of this story appeared in The Rotunda
The Longwood Theatre Department’s most recent performance is “Zero to Sixty,” the department’s tenth annual playwriting festival. This set of performances featured various student-directed plays, some of which were written by the students themselves. One of the final performances in the 2015 to 2016 semester, it features the shows “A Game of Life and Death,” “The Breakup,” “Inside,” “Water Works” and “It’s Candy.” Not all of the writers and directors, are students, though most of them are. A couple are Longwood alumni.
The first show was “It’s Candy,” a bizarre show about a man at a bachelor party who pays for a stripper to come over to his house. His fiancé is upset about this when she finds out about the stripper because she got home before him. Freshman Gabby Burner played the stripper, Candy, and this was her first show at Longwood, though she had been in many shows throughout high school. She does not feel that there was anything especially difficult about the role. She notes that the voice she does in the show was not that hard to do, and she did it in the auditions. The show’s director, Caitlin Mazura, asked her to do “a Harley Quinn voice.” Burner admits that she is not much of Batman fan, but she went with a voice that she thought was “Jersey-ish,” and I think that it worked. In order to prepare for the role, Burner says that she “watched a lot of videos of strippers online, trying to get the kind of swagger that they have.” Other than her own show, she is tied between “Inside” and “A Game of Life and Death.” The latter, she says, “raises a lot of interesting points, and it’s kind of one of the darker, serious shows, and I appreciate that, as much as I love a good comedy.… “” “Inside” is just really cute, and I also think it’s really sad towards the end.” “It’s Candy’s” director, senior Caitlin Mazura, says that the hardest part of making her show was writing it. “It’s actually written so there are no actors onstage, so it’s just the answering machine,” she explains. This is because, for her playwriting class, the prompt is to write a play as if only the answering machine is onstage. “So figuring out how to have the actors onstage, but still keep that…’no-one’s onstage’ kind of thing, was probably the hardest part.”
The second show was “Waterworks,” a comedy featuring a husband and his pregnant wife. Logan, played by Cameron Potter, is obsessed with organizing the pantry, to the point where his wife becomes exasperated. He cannot even choose a name for the baby until he is finished, and the situation becomes more extreme as the show continues.
The third show, “IInnside,” portrayed a boyfriend and girlfriend, Jeff and Sydney, studying for and exam. While studying, they discover an upside-down cup with the phrase “don’t open unless you plan to kill it.” Whatas followeds wasis a hilarious, but sad, series of events as their relationship deteriorateds.
The next play was “Bad Doctors,” by a comedy by Mary Beith. Mr. Jones, played by Ryan Bultrowitz, goes to the doctor’s office for a check-up, but his doctors are less helpful than he would have liked. The first doctor (Baylee Holloran) refuses to give him any helpful information, and instead tells him that he has cancer, then tells him that she was joking. This conflict makes for a very fun absurdist show of two incredibly unprofessional doctors and their frustrated patient. “ ‘Bad Doctors’ was my favorite, including my own!” says Mazura.
“The Breakup” was the second to last show in the lineup, and featured the end of a strained relationship between Grace (Kennedy Mehfoud) and her boyfriend, Drew (Noah Blakeslee). Grace knows that they are going nowhere fast, and wants to let him off nicely at a coffee shop. Drew, however, cannot take a hint. As Grace stumbles over her words, Drew begins to think that she wants him to come over to her parents’ house for Christmas dinner, and the situation gets more and more hectic. This was another great and very funny play, if a little sad.
The last show was “A Game of Life and Death,” written by sophomore Josh Fried. As one can guess, this show was a little darker than the rest. It portrays the conflict between the anthropomorphized Life and Death, two card player that play “Go Fish” for eternity in order to determine if those in life-threatening situations live or die. The game is supposed to be played without any bias towards saving or killing the humans, though neither play by the rules. Life tries to find excuses to save people, though she pretends she is playing fairly. Death is more upfront about her inclinations, and tries to convince Life to sacrifice some in order to save others. It was very exciting to watch as both try to skirt the rules. Fried says that the idea for his show came from when he was “watching an episode of “Scrubs” where J.D. was talking to Death and playing a game of Connect Four with him, and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if… Life and Death were literally playing a game over who lived and who died,’ and it just sort of went from there.” He says that “it turned out darker” than he originally intended, but he is “happy with the result.”
This turned out to be a really amazing set of shows. I especially liked that the ones that leaned towards the tragedy genre were also comedies in their own way. “Inside,” “The Breakup,” and “A Game of Life of Death” all were funny in their own way, despite being dark and somewhat sad. Fried’s idea that it would be funny to see a personified Life and Death play a game to determine people’s fates very much paid off.