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It's hard to imagine a play without a stage, a set, costumes and props, without lighting and sound, without the excitement of the curtain opening.

But the stripping away of these theatrical elements is precisely what "Three Days of Plays" is all about: the playwright, the script, the story, the lines and the characters — things a play absolutely cannot exist without.

"Three Days of Plays," a festival of original undergraduate works, began on Tuesday and runs through Sunday in Production Workshop's Upspace in T. F. Green Hall. The festival features works by Justin Kurtizkes '12, Francesca Montanile '11, Sam Alper '11, Ned Riseley '12, Michelle Meyers '12 and Deepali Gupta '12. Meyers and Gupta organized the event after a meeting at the beginning of the semester during which undergraduate playwrights expressed a desire for more opportunities to hear their work.

Meyers told The Herald it is difficult for undergraduate students to get a production off the ground because of all the things it requires, including a director, actors, a set and lighting — not to mention hours of rehearsal. She said playwrights wanted to be able to hear their work,  without all the work.

"We were able to present five full-length pieces and six short pieces all by undergraduate playwrights, all new work. Lots of people got to be involved and hear their work in a short time with minimal time commitment," Meyers said.

Hearing their plays aloud allows writers to see what works and what doesn't — which jokes people laugh at and if conversations seem natural, among other things, Meyers explained. Meyers' plays, "Waltz for Rosemary" and "GPS," will be read on Sunday.

Gupta said that hearing her play "Dull Bulbs" aloud was strange. "You realize how well you know the words, and also how little you know them," she said.

She said she knew exactly what was going to come next, but not how it was going to sound. Hearing the words of her play enabled Gupta to evaluate parts she was unsure about, she said.

In contrast to most performances, "Three Days of Plays" is less about the audience and more about the playwright.

"(The audience's) experience is ultimately for the playwright to gauge what went on and how to move forward," Gupta said.

Prior to the festival, the actors had not read the plays together. Playwrights did not toil over selecting the perfect actors, but rather asked friends and whoever else was willing to lend their time. For this reason, the readings were not about the quality of the acting, but the quality of the writing.

Without the glitter and excitement that comes with a full production, the audience has to focus and work harder to follow the events of the plays. This was especially true of Kuritzkes' "Growth," which has over a dozen characters — including housekeepers, drug dealers and Hollywood directors — with some actors playing two different people. The play had a lot going on, exploring several complex relationships including mother-son, husband-wife and the blurry line between friends and friends-with-benefits.

"Growth" was loaded with pop culture and political references, many of which elicited laughter from the audience as well as the actors. Plot twists abound — a girl loses her virginity, her father has cancer, her brother dies in a car accident with her father's drug dealer and her family's Fourth of July beach party is ruined when a boat catches fire.

Despite the fact that they had not rehearsed, the actors did an excellent job delivering their lines and developing their characters. But some things they couldn't act out, which the audience understood through stage directions. It was hilarious to hear the descriptions of the actors kissing and having sex and then watch them give each other an awkward glance and not follow through.

The work-in-progress atmosphere, with the actors often breaking character and the playwright making the occasional interruption, enhanced the experience.

"Three Days of Plays" proves that you don't need costumes, sets or lighting to entertain an audience. The language alone makes a performance.


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