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Thursday, Aug 18, 2022

“Together Apart” celebrates first year talents in a 24-hour play festival

At a glance, it may seem absurd to have a theatre production remotely — daunting, too. Many questions arise: How will it be screened? How will it be produced? How did people prepare? But at the remote First Year Show, those questions dissipated the second the actors came into frame. Featuring plays written, directed, designed and produced in a 24 hour period and starring actors who have never before performed at Middlebury, the 25th annual First Year Show was aptly titled “Together Apart.” 

The festival, which ran 24 hours from Oct. 9 to Oct. 10 and culminated in a livestream of the plays, was full of pep and excitement despite circumstances.

Produced by Julia Proctor ’06.5, the show was written, directed, designed and pieced together in only two days and then livestreamed from the Seeler Studio Theatre in Middlebury. The combination of voices and direction, a compilation of eight new student-written and directed plays, was a valiant effort.  

“My favorite part of the process was going through the video footage and getting to see everyone working hard, even though I wasn’t there to witness [it] in person,” said Emma Vallon ’21.5, production help.  

“President Jimmy Carter and the Great Toxic Event,” written by Cole Merrell ’21 and directed by Maggie Connolly ’23, kicked off the show with quippy dialogue. As the camera zoomed in on a confused Oso, played by Ethan Fleming ’24, delivering a monologue about his close relationship with President Carter, I couldn’t help but laugh. 

Next was a crowd favorite, “Quit Pulling My Leg!” Written by Sara Massey ’23 and directed by Ryan Kirby ’22, the play examined the unlikely duo of an odd girl and post office worker. Really making the most use of a little cardboard box, this scene was as enigmatic as I expected. 

I’d be hard-pressed to describe the third show, “The Wormhole.” Another two-person bit, it was one of my favorite monologues. Content warning aside, Lucy and Prudence, played by Kristen Morgenstern ’24 and Maggie Blake ’24 respectively, prattle on about their trauma and experiences with a touch of dark humor. 

The fourth play “Antiquated” was the first trio scene of the night. I found “Antiquated” most notable for how well the set was utilized—the scant stage made for interesting directing choices. As Alix (Ashling Walsh ’24), Suzie (Erin Chouinard ’24), and Dylan (Catie Duggan ’24) discuss their tense relationships, the light set the mood cleverly as the three walked around the little square of the stage. 

“Come On Aylin'' was likely the most wholesome of the eight. Seeing the dynamic of three actors feigning friends — two of whom despise each other — unfold was gratifying. Ending with cheer to the familiar, upbeat notes of “Come On Eileen,” it was a pick-you-up scene. In “Where do we Go?” the confused trio of Luna, Louis and Naja (Luna Simone-Gonzales ’24, Hunter Newell ’24 and Naja Irvin-Conyers ’24) meandered around the setup. Written by Emily Wight ’24 and directed by Wynn McClenahan ’22, “Where Do We Go?” captured bemused melodrama to a tee. 

“Fate on Tape,” the seventh play of the evening, showcased the comical relationship between Thea and Thor (and, as we are constantly reminded, not the Chris Hemsworth kind), played by Katelyn Wenkoff ’24 and Beck Barsanti ’24. Barista Thea feels conflicted after stumbling on a cassette tape recorder that contains her entire life’s history, struggling to decide if she should listen to it. The ending was my favorite, as Thor and Thea freeze in hilarious tableau snapshots, cleverly using blackouts to shift between poses.

The final play,“Time Trials,” written by Ian Hanson ’21, is about two girls who buy a mortar and pestle, only to find that it is a time traveling device. Flitting between the Cretaceous period, volcanic explosions and Middlebury itself, the play is hectic with each transition but ultimately delivers a hilarious performance. 

While remote modality may have slowed down some aspects of production, I thought little was compromised in “Together Apart.” 

“Any opportunity right now to work [in theatre] is huge,” co-writer of “Fate on Tape” Madison Middleton ’22.5 said. 

The show must go on, and it is incredibly rewarding to see so much concentrated hard work pay off — and within 24 hours, too.