(By Madi Mehta ’24)
The crowd of students, nestled on the Exley patio, buzzed in anticipation to awaiting the start of the Dramathon, a performance of student-created 10-minute plays based on the prompt “the unknown persists.”
The event, which took place on Nov. 7, is similar to MonoLogOn, which was performed last year on Zoom due to the pandemic.
Dramathon began when the music faded and the audience watched intently as the first set was built: a couple of chairs, a spattering of empty food containers, and assorted plastic bags. As the actors entered and positioned themselves, Exley disappeared and the crowd was enthralled by the world created by the people standing before them.
In this collection of plays, a college student battled the demons in her head, which had manifested as slimy monsters that ate her social security card and kept her from going to classes. An uptight food inspector tried to bust a lone grocery store in an end-of-the-world exclusion zone. An idealistic student got repeatedly shot down by a teacher at her high school.
Students were put into teams of a writer, director, and a few actors that collaborated over the course of eight weeks to produce plays based on the prompt.
“The festival itself reflects a goal of ours, which is to create a space free of barriers (no audition process) for people to come together in a community and make theater again,” said event co-organizer Isabelle Chirls ’23.
Many first-year and transfer students participated as actors. These students were looking to establish themselves at Wesleyan and find community. For upperclassmen in the audience, the in-person performances were only enriched by the experience of sitting before living, breathing actors who extended their set into the natural world.
“Zoom’s great and all, but today I felt like the actors were speaking directly to me. I felt like I was somehow a part of the experience,” said Kristina Tran ‘24, an international student who watched the MonoLogOn performance from home last year.
“Following the pandemic, I could see pieces of my own experience in these stories created by the actors. I related to the uncertainty,” said Savannah Ryan ’24, who believes that events like this make someplace you go to school feel more like home.
Following the event, students reflected on not only the incredible resolve and talent of the actors and writers who crafted these short pieces from scratch but the sense of community that was present that evening.
“In these works we could see ourselves,” said Madi Mehta ’24. “When we looked around, we found that the people bundled up next to us were experiencing the same humbling feeling.”