Student playwrights recognized at theater festival
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Student playwrights recognized at theater festival

Mehul Shrivastava, Features Editor

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This year, the Cannon Theater in Littleton is hosting their first ever 10 Minute Play Festival,where six out of the ten plays are written by Westford Academy students, and three additional students will be involved in directing the plays.

The Cannon Theater is a small community theater seating around fifty audience members with a mission to present family-friendly plays to the community. The play festival includes ten plays in all, with five played during each act. The festival is meant to highlight shorter plays, with a limit of ten minutes, rather than one-act or full length plays. Both children and adults are eligible to enter.

Westford Academy Theater Arts Director Michael Towers had seventeen of his playwriting students submit a ten-minute play to the festival. The six that were chosen were graduate Michael Tricca for his play “Oh Friend of Mine,” junior Lauren McNally for “Happy Medium,” junior Danny Kelly for “Oh,” graduate Madison Wiser for “Despite Everything,” junior Matt Mantenuto for “I,” and junior Isabelle Vernalia for “Let’s Be Clear”.

Furthermore, junior Nolan Hart, graduate Maryum Mullenix, and junior Isabel Redman, who are all students in Towers’ directing class will be directing “Oh”, “Despite Everything”, and “I”, respectively.

Towers wanted to teach his students about sending in plays to possible production opportunities, which is what playwrights have to do in order to earn a living.

“”Part of the process of […] being a playwright is the unfortunate business of submitting your work, submitting you work, submitting your work. It’s like a full time job,” Towers said.

Ten-minute plays were created in 1981, so they are relatively new and popular. They are both easy to produce and do not require a very high budget. According to Towers and his students, writing them is easier than full-length plays in terms of effort, but condensing the material into the limited time is a new and different kind of challenge.

“A ten-minute play is a whole total play. Its a whole total play with a beginning, a middle and an end,” Towers said.

Vernalia often bases her plays off of stories she hears about, and her play “Let’s Be Clear,” which opens the second act, falls into that category. It is centered around a high school girl who beats up a boy in her class for sexually harassing her. The ten minutes of the play shows the interaction in the principal’s office that follows.

Vernalia’s play will be opening the second act of the festival, and she will also be acting in the first play, “Virtual Cookies” by JF Dacey, one of her family friends.

McNally’s play, “Happy Medium,” is centered around a couple arguing over how to handle the husband’s cancer diagnosis. Her play is inspired from an assignment where each student had to eavesdrop into a conversation and then pass the lines on to another member of the class, who would then write a piece based on what they got.

Students were also able to take part in directorial and casting aspects of their plays. The festival allowed them to have an voice when picking cast members during auditions, and Cannon Theater also allowed for more one-to-one experiences with actors, as compared to Westford Academy Theater Arts. Normally, playwrights do not have much say in the direction of the play, so this was a unique experience.

“Being a playwright in general, you don’t really have the opportunity to put a little bit of your input when you’re handing your play to somebody else,” Vernalia said.

McNally was initially nervous about going into the auditions process, but was met with a welcoming community and ended up enjoying the experience.

“Its surreal to see actors actually performing something that you created,” McNally said.

Overall, Towers is impressed with his students’ work and is excited to see how they contribute to not only their own plays, but the festival as a whole.

“This is a wonderful thing for any playwright, much less a teenage playwright in a secondary classroom, to have their work produced,” Towers said.

The festival was held at 7:30 PM on June 8, 9, and 15. The final show will be on June 16.