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Nikhil Melnechuk ’07 and Jessica Posner ’09 are co-producing a week-long theater event based on Suzan-Lori Parks’ “365 Days/365 Plays.” The plays will be shown throughout campus and the Middletown community this month.
Posted 02.01.07

Wesleyan, Community Prepares for Week of Play a Day

In November 2002, Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks committed to writing a play a day for 365 days. Since November 2006, this year of new plays has been debuting across the country as “365 Days/365 Plays.”

Wesleyan is among 52 universities and more than 700 venues taking part in this project, and will perform eight of Parks’ plays Feb. 5-11.

“Wesleyan is making history,” explains co-producer Jessica Posner ’09. “This festival is the largest theater collaboration in U.S. history, and Wesleyan gets to be part of that. It is very exiting.”

According to Posner and co-producer Nikhil Melnechuk ‘07, Wesleyan's take on 365 Days/365 Plays will use Parks' plays as a centerpiece for a week-long festival that “attempts to re-contextualize every interaction as theater.”

Wesleyan students will act in the plays, changing roles each time the play is re-performed. Each one of Parks’ plays runs about 10 minutes long, and will be performed seven times a day at seven different venues.

“These plays are about finding connections – either with each other or within yourself,” says Melnechuk 07. “They manage social critique without being didactic because of their absurd humor and circumstances.”

Melnechuk and Posner have devoted more than 40 hours a week for four months preparing for the event. They are encouraging their actors to exercise their creativity so no play is performed the same way twice. The plays do not have sets; actors will rely on costumes and props to help tell the story.

Plays will take place all over the campus, such as in Pi Café, Davenport Campus Center and the Science Library. Olin Library will host and interactive piece titled “365 Tasks.”

The Opening Ceremony, scheduled at 8 p.m., Feb. 5, in the Center for the Arts Theater, will feature a talk by Metzgar and Rugg, and a performance by Gina Ulysse, assistant professor of anthropology and African American Studies. During the week of performances, prominent speakers will be brought to campus including the 365 National Festival producers Bonnie Metzgar and Rebecca Rugg. Lectures, performances and workshops will be offered by distinguished artists such as Joseph Roach, professor of theater and English at Yale University; Christine Mok, a Ph.D candidate at Yale’s School of Drama, and artist-in-residence poet/activist Amiri Baraka, who perform with his septet Blue Ark Feb. 9.

Wesleyan will also present a large scale, town-wide festival that showcases Wesleyan and Middletown life and culture. It will include workshops, performances, lectures, demonstrations and discussions—all free and open to the public. This festival includes “The Write-On Marathon” where Wesleyan students and members of the Middletown community can try their hand at Parks’ project by writing a play a day. Five winning entries will be performed on Feb. 11 at 8 p.m. in the Center for the Arts Cinema. Submissions will be accepted throughout the week (for more information on how to participate, visit www.wesleyan365.com/write.html).

“We want people to see theater as an essential component of everyday life, using the plays by Suzan-Lori Parks as the point of departure,” Posner says.

A gala performance of all the plays will take place at 8 p.m. Feb. 10 in the Patricelli '92 Theatre with a reception to follow. The plays will be performed by actors Michael Chandler ’08, Jennifer Celestin ‘07, Maya Kazan ‘09, Garrett Larribas ‘07, Jermaine Lewis ‘09 and Carter Smith ‘09. Steven Sapp, founding member of New York City’s acclaimed poetry/theater ensemble UNIVERSES, will be conducting an open theater workshop from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on Feb. 10 and will open the performances at 6 and 8 p.m. with a solo piece.

Festival coordinators raised over $6,000 to put on the week-long event. Sponsors include the Center for African American Studies, Center for the Arts, Theatre Department, Second Stage, Wesleyan Student Assembly, Adelphic Education Fund, Community Development Fund, Feminist Gender and Sexuality Studies, Ethics in Society Program, Office of Affirmative Action, and the fund for Diversity and Academic Advancement.
 
For reservations of information, go to www.wesleyan365.com, e-mail: info@wesleyan365.com or call Jessica Posner at 303-919-5994 or Nikhil Melnechuk 413-230-0740.
 
By Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection editor