What do fat camps, elevators and Snuggies all have in common? They are all featured in Brownbrokers' third annual Mini-Musical Festival, running Friday through Monday night in the downstairs space of T.F. Green Hall.
This year's festival presents seven student-written mini-musicals, each lasting 15 to 30 minutes. The festival "fosters original work at Brown" in ways that other productions simply can't, said Elizabeth Rothman '11, who co-wrote "The Elevator Musical" with Lee Taglin '10.
Showcasing 13 writers and 35 actors from the Brown community, the festival is a "great way to show off people that couldn't be in one big show," explained Nick White '10, who is co-directing "Charlie Bit My Finger: The Musical" and "The Elevator Musical" with Liz Livingstone '10.
The festival started in 2008 as a "fly by the seat of our pants" venture by Brownbrokers, according to Aaron Malkin '10, a member of the Brownbrokers Board and director of the mini-musical "Fat Camp."
Since then, the festival has grown and Brownbrokers has worked to get more of the Brown community involved. "This year we started early in November and used ‘Leavittsburg, Ohio' (Brownbrokers' fall musical) to parlay this event," Malkin said.
Malkin said that using "Leavittsburg, Ohio" to garner attention for the festival was a great success and that several individuals who worked on the musical either offered submissions to the festival or helped with the production.
Submissions had to include a minimum of three original songs and a script, Rothman said. The entries were evaluated by Brownbrokers Board members who had not submitted their own works, Malkin said. Decisions were based on the works' music, lyrics and themes, he added. The board also looked for works that were fun and offered musical diversity, strong characters and interesting plots and themes, Malkin said.
The result is a mix of fun mini-musicals that are often ridiculous. Plots include a sequel to the now infamous YouTube video clip "Charlie Bit My Finger," as well as a romance between the ShamWow and Snuggie infomercial hosts. "Because they have to be so original, it's completely outrageous," White said.
"It's 15 minutes of babies and murder and love and you have no idea what's going on, but it's great," Rothman said.
These works are things that "you could never make a full musical about," Malkin said. But each one does have some semblance of a message, and this year's festival features a serious piece as well, he added.
Andrew Hertz '04, adjunct lecturer in theatre arts and performance studies, has been a wonderful source of advice for the cast and crew, Malkin said. His classes — TSDA 0960A: "Musical Theater Songwriting" and TSDA 0960B: "Musical Theater Writing Workshop" — were amazing resources in which more than half of the musicals featured in the festival were developed, he said.
The festival was produced in just two weeks, while most musicals at Brown get a full eight weeks of preparation, Malkin said.
"It's much more compact," he explained. "We just got in the space Monday and the show's on Friday. Last night we teched seven shows in seven hours. It's fun and hectic."
"It mimics a musical," White said. "In one night we can teach you the lines and block the set."
For the writers, the process is both fun and liberating, Rothman said. "It's about pushing those 15 minutes and saying to the audience ‘Here's something ludicrous.' "
"Everyone's there to have fun," Livingstone said. The festival also gives "people who wouldn't normally try out a chance to get one-on-one attention. They find it more accessible because it is only two weeks," she added.
With such a large cast and crew, friends tend to pack the theater every night, White said. Last year, 250 people were turned away, Malkin said.
"The audience is very supportive," White said. "People know that the shows have been thrown together quick and rowdy."
Musical diversity combined with ridiculous plot lines and good old Brown spirit promises audiences a fun and entertaining night. "It's definitely an experience," Rothman said.