Close relationships take center stage in this year’s Donn B. Murphy One Acts Festival (DBMOAF). Each year for the past three decades, students at Georgetown University have submitted their screenplays to the festival to be developed into full (or near full) productions by the Mask & Bauble Dramatic Society and the Department of Performing Arts. This year, the festival presents Four Lemons and a Funeral by Allison Lane (COL ‘19) and Hazel and Stanley by Timmy Sutton (COL ‘20). Both one-acts focus on the relationships between two people, from the messed up, painfully true, the silly, and chaotic, to the giggly, unexplainable, silent, and wretched. In these plays, what is said is just as vital as what is not said, and the sounds, from silences to songs, speak volumes.
This year’s two plays were carefully chosen from a wide selection student proposals. Last spring, 20 submissions were screened by a board of judges comprising of Georgetown faculty, alumni, and outside professionals. Mask & Bauble received the top six plays and then narrowed them down to the two. “We really liked pretty much all of the top six. We knew we wanted to do two plays, so it was just about finding two that worked well together,” producer Grace Crozier (COL ’21) said in an interview with the Voice.
The staff chose Four Lemons and A Funeral and Hazel and Stanley because they both focus on the close connections people have with each other, and how these relationships are important in supporting people through both the good days and the bad ones. “We really liked the parallels of the Dana and Lauren relationship and Hazel and Stanley, having these two people who are very much close, and have this kind of special relationship. We thought that it played very nicely in both of those.”
In Four Lemons and A Funeral, a minimalistic white kitchen serves as the backdrop to a bittersweet reunion of two sisters, Dana and Lauren. Old memories and family secrets resurface during their mother’s funeral, where lemon squares help bring the sisters closer to each other again.
Meanwhile, Hazel and Stanley relies on light projections of Georgetown and carefully-chosen music to bring two college students’ friendship into a masterful collage of rooftop moments. The play follows the arc of an entirely off-stage relationship, as well as touches upon topics of depression, love, and loyalty.
“These plays really stuck out to the entire DBMOAF staff because they’re really about just pure human connection, and there’s a lot of reaching out to each other. And I think in this day and age there’s a lot of introverted tendencies,” director Kate Clark (COL ‘21) said in an interview with the Voice.
“These plays really show that with reaching out comes a release, comes building on those relationships more and more. College is stressful; Georgetown is stressful, so I really hope that the people who see these plays can then really push themselves to reach out more when they need to, and also to respond when someone reaches out to them,” Clark said.
This festival is one of the only opportunities at Georgetown for students to showcase their dramatic writing. Other platforms exist for poetry, visual art, and short creative writing, but dramatic plays can only be fully produced by the cooperation of a multitude of students and even faculty on campus. “I hope that student writing on campus gets to take a more prominent position. I don’t think that we do enough of it in theater. I think there are a lot of people here who write, and we do DBMOAF. And that’s it,” Sutton said in an interview with the Voice. “It’s kind of the only way that we do student writing. I think that’s kind of sad. I wish we were more aggressive about trying to do it in a lot of ways,” he said.
Between the two one-act plays, Corpus, the spoken word student organization at Georgetown, will perform three poems, showcasing another way students can get involved with performance at Georgetown. “I’m so excited for Corpus,” Clark said. “Because DBMOAF is a festival, we really wanted to reach out to other student clubs on campus.”
Two of the poems will be read by Sutton, who mainly writes poetry and only recently began writing for theater. “When I started Hazel and Stanley, it was as a writing exercise to get better at writing dialogue. I wrote a lot of the scenes out of order.” He said.
“The primary thing that I wanted to write about was openly affectionate male friendship, and the types of male friendships that I feel like I’ve had, that I felt aren’t really represented in media, that I wish had been represented in media when I was younger. Because I don’t think that they’re the exception. I actually think they are the norm at this point.” Sutton said. ”I wanted to write something with two male friends who could say I love you to each other without having to punch each other in the arm afterwards to prove that it wasn’t a weird thing.”
This year’s festival is unique because, unlike other plays performed at Georgetown, and even compared to past DBMOAF productions, this year’s playwrights are both still on campus, allowing much closer collaboration between the DBMOAF staff and the creators. This is also the first Mask & Bauble show with projections, and they’re even experimenting with cooking lemon squares backstage during Four Lemons and A Funeral in hopes that the smell will reach the audience during the performance.
The 2018 Donn B. Murphy One Acts Festival opens Wednesday, Oct. 3rd and runs until Oct. 7th. The festival will take place at Poulton Hall’s Stage III. Tickets and more information can be found here.