By Emma Johansen-Hewitt
This past weekend, the BAM! Student Theater Festival took place. Two student-directed plays, “Shel’s Shorts” and “Gruesome Playground Injuries,” were performed over a five-day period at alternating times.
“Shel’s Shorts” is an episodic play written by Shel Silverstein, who is perhaps most widely recognized by our generation for his children’s books, such as The Giving Tree and Where the Sidewalk Ends. Shel Silverstein, however, was incredibly versatile and created many adult works, including extensive cartoons for Playboy Magazine, and the play, Shel’s Shorts.
“Shel’s Shorts” consists of short plays written by Shel Silverstein, which are from the absurdist era of theater, “So a lot of it doesn’t make sense, but that’s the point and makes it funny,” said Emily Leahy, stage manager for Shel’s Shorts.
Director Corey Cadigan picked and chose scenes based on what he thought fit well together, that “played on the normality of the situation,” he said, alluding back to the absurdist nature of the play. “I chose the scenes I thought the Bridgewater audience would find funny.”
Due to the ever disruptive snow, the cast and production crew of Shel’s Shorts only had around ten rehearsals to pull the show together, “which makes me so proud of the cast and our director Corey Cadigan for doing such an amazing job,” said Leahy.
“Gruesome Playground Injuries,” the other of the two plays in the BAM! Student Theater Festival, was a two-person play directed by Allison Davis, and starred Frank Iaquinta as Dougie and Hailey Duquette as Kayleen.
The play itself itself follows two best friends through 30 years, in a non linear pattern. “In the first scene, the two characters are 8 years old and in the second they are 23,” explained Davis. “The rest of the play follows a pattern where every scene either jumps forward in time 15 years or backward in time 10 years.”
Another interesting element of the play, in addition to its non-linear progression, is that the two actors are both on stage the entire time. “I wanted to use this to make the audience very aware of what was happening,” said Davis. “There were two dressing rooms in the upstage corners of the playing space that all of the actor’s costume changes took place in. The tech crew changed the set while the actors changed in their dressing rooms, making the audience aware that we weren’t trying to keep them in any kind of fictional world.”
“Gruesome Playground Injuries” also ran into the issue of a lack of rehearsals due to snow days, having only 7 rehearsals before tech week. The other biggest challenge of the piece, according to Davis, was creating a relationship between the characters that felt as authentic as possible. “Thankfully,” said Davis, “I had two incredibly dedicated and talented actors who I couldn’t have been more excited to work with.”
Student theater has always been a staple on college campuses, and for good reason. Theater offers a unique learning and growth experience. As Cadigan put it, theater “gives students the chance to develop skills in ways you can not do in a classroom, ways you can only achieve in a rehearsal hall.”
Emma Johansen-Hewitt is a Comment Contributor.