Eli Whitney was born in 1929 in Houston, Texas.
No? Well his cotton gin was the OxiClean of the 1940s, according to Sept. 10ths One Day Plays hosted by Alpha Psi Omega, the Theatre Arts Honor Society.
Senior Adam Kaplan’s story of a tutoring session gone awry, presenting the inaccurate life of Eli Whitney to three young students, was one of six plays presented at the festival.
The annual event allots 24 hours for writing, directing, rehearsing and performing six student productions.
For the first year, each writer selected a photo from Flickr.com to inspire his or her script.
“It allowed for more creative freedom,” senior Katie Nardizzi said. “Writers were less stuck, but there was less variation.”
This year’s program featured six comedies, unlike previous years when genres were assigned.
Despite the gravitation toward humor, creativity was plentiful in Yeager Recital Hall.
“You’re surprised by what we can do in 24 hours,” co-producer Sean Liang said. “It feels like a festival because there are groups all over the place rehearsing and scrambling to get their scenes together. No one knows what’s going to happen.”
In addition to the scarcity of time for memorizing lines, actors can’t prepare for the character they will create.
“I could be a yoga instructor. I could be a 5-year-old child,” junior Jennifer Roberts said. “I could be a dog for all I know. I really could go in any direction that the writers decide.”
She was none of the above. Roberts played “The Woman” in the night’s opening comedy, “Through the Light.”
Actors were not the only ones under pressure. Writers and directors did not have to memorize lines, but they worried about the audience’s reactions.
“The scariest bit comes when it’s actually being performed in front of an audience and hoping that people laugh,” junior Michelle Wilson said.
Wilson, co-author of “Sleepover,” had little to worry about.
“‘Sleepover’ was my favorite,” Nardizzi said. “It was the funniest because the comedic timing was great.”
Authored by students from the School of Communications, “Sleepover” embodied the festival’s commitment to bringing students from different fields of study to the arts.
“We love to have creative writing majors, communication majors, students from all disciplines,” Liang said. “The point of APO is to reach out and enlighten people with theatre.”
Not only were students from other majors encouraged to participate, the festival was a great way for new students, especially freshmen, to get involved, said senior Ben Morris.
“I didn’t have to audition,” freshman Jenna Hokanson said. “I just thought it sounded fun. I loved participating, meeting new people and watching. Every group had its own twists.”
Each of the six performances had a lively audience. Laughter and applause emanated from those overflowing in the back to the front row seats, and standing ovations were not uncommon.
“It was impressive for 24 hours,” senior Katie Elinoff said. “‘Cotton a Pickle’ was amazing, Adam Kaplan’s writing was great.”
The successful evening doubled as a fundraiser for acting seniors and Alpha Psi Omega theatre honors society.