Grace Bromage ’23
At 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 18, dozens of students crowded around the Stein Quad to witness the 2021 performance of ACT’s Midnight Theater. In the past, this event has been held in the “Pit” in the lower level of O’Kane, but to comply with Covid-19 restrictions and maintain the live audience, Alternate College Theater moved their performance outside.
Students who want to participate in Midnight Theater sign up to be either writers or actors early in the fall semester. Writers are assigned a specific genre, setting, object, and line that they then have three hours to turn into a play. Actors have four hours to rehearse with the writers. After the performances take place near midnight, a panel of judges gives out awards to the various writers and actors. The audience also plays a huge role in the excitement of the night, filling the space with shouting and laughter that could be heard from Carlin Hall.
This year, Emma Kennelly ’23, Lauren Casey ’23, and Amanda Vierra ’23 received the “Best Writing” award for their “The Battle for Lower Kimball.” Curious to learn more about the process of creating the play that featured horrible betrayals and fights, I asked Kennelly and Casey about their experience in the 2021 Midnight Theater.
Casey claimed that writing this year was a “really awesome challenge! I’ve personally never written a script in that short a time, let alone have it be performed. It helped that it was a collaborative process. My fellow playwrights and I were in stitches while we brainstormed increasingly ridiculous ideas for our piece.” Kennelly elaborated on the process, saying that “we got our randomized prompts (genre, prop, line, actors, setting) at 5-5:30 and had until 8 to write before our actors showed up. It was stressful leading up to the moment we got the prompts but after that the three of us just buckled down, and had a great time writing.”
Casey’s favorite part of the night was just watching both her own play and those of her other playwrights. She said that “they never go exactly as planned, and it’s always such a rush to be amongst a bunch of people who are hyped up about silly little skits. There were so many good ones this year! We got to visit all sorts of wacky places: Times Square, Lower Kimball, a professor’s house— it was awesome to just be there after being away from it for so long due to COVID.” Kennelly also said her favorite part was just watching the shows, especially the last one, which was meant to be a 1920s silent film about a “New York detective”.
While they stuck to writing this year, Lauren Casey and Emma Kennelly have acted in the Midnight Theater in the past. On her experience doing both, Casey said that “I’m an actor at heart, that’s for sure, but I always love writing. It’s hard to say which I prefer, but I can say confidently that both experiences have been nothing short of incredible.” Kennelly had a different take, claiming she did prefer one over the other: “It’s definitely more work to write, but I found I enjoyed it more. It made watching all the skits more enjoyable since there was no pressure to perform, the power was out of my hands at that point. Although acting for something as ridiculous as midnight theater is a truly unique experience.”
Midnight Theater typically takes place in mid-September. Filled with witty dialogue, campus inside jokes, and unforgettable performances, I would definitely recommend going if you have the chance!