Arts & Entertainment, Theatre

Tuesday Night Café Theatre’s annual 24-hour play festival spotlights up-and-coming actors

In the 24 hours from Jan. 25 to 26, six student playwrights, directors, and actors met for the first time to write, produce, rehearse, and perform original student-written play as a part of the Tuesday Night Café Theatre (TNC)’s annual festival. Each play had to incorporate certain elements, including the line “and that’s why I never left my house again,” Kanye West’s “Lift Yourself,” a shovel, a phone, and a pair of boxing gloves. With plots ranging from a gossip session about after-school rumours to a dramatic tale of a workers’ union struggle on a remote space station, the festival’s diverse arrangement of plays proved exceptional, especially given the limited time constraint.

The festival aimed to introduce new actors into McGill’s theatre community. For Laine Berry (U1 Science), a TNC director who co-organized the festival with Sarah Mitchell (U1 Engineering), seeing so many new faces come out for the festival was a clear sign of a successful event. Although several of the participants had been previously involved in theatre in some capacity, the sheer number of actors performing for the first time at McGill establishes TNC as a valuable gateway into the performing arts.

Once the plays came to an end, three judges in the crowd briefly convened and declared “Where We Were,” written by Megan Hunt and directed by Alex Cruz, both Concordia theatre students, the best of the festival. The piece opened as a conversation between a group of friends reminiscing over where they were when they heard the news that their friend’s overweight 14-year-old shih tzu passed away. The script detailed the characters’ comedic flashbacks to past romances and social gatherings of suburban wine moms attempting to recruit people into a dubious Tupperware sales business.

“[When first given the writing prompts] I saw the phone and thought, ‘What were some of the worst times for a phone to ring?’” Hunt said in an interview with The McGill Tribune. “I’m from southern Ontario, and pyramid scheme parties are so prominent there [.…They would] be a terrible place to find out bad news.”

Cruz, who received the completed script only an hour before the actors, quickly set out to get the play ready for performance. Cruz had to cast the actors, figure out how to incorporate “Lift Yourself” into the piece, and work with the technical crew to perfect lighting in just a few hours.

“[You] need a kind of creative spark to do this sort of thing in a time crunch,” Cruz said. “They say necessity is the mother of invention, and you have to put your nose to the grindstone for this. You make decisions, [and] don’t know if they’ll work but you have to believe in what you’re doing right away.”

As the curtains closed on the festival, each production showcased a diverse array of genres, styles, and methods. From comedies to tragedies, this year’s 24-hour play fest featured the best of the newest generation of McGill’s theatre community.  

Tuesday Night Café Theatre is a student-run experimental theatre company based in Morrice Hall dedicated to giving opportunities for students to grow and learn through theatre. TNC’s next production, The Anastasia Trials in the Court of Women, written by Carolyn Gage and directed by Charlotte Giraudet, will run from Feb. 7-9 and Feb. 14-16.

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