A hipster Frankenstein, a hairball, and the line: “Baby, it’s not just Duran Duran that’s hungry like the wolf”—these were the staples of this year’s OCSA Scarefest.
Scarefest 48-Hour Playfest, the brainchild of Creative Writing’s director Abbe Levine, is formatted after the 24-hour playfest, where playwrights are in a room for 24 hours and must produce a new play by the time the doors are unlocked. In OCSA’s version, however, a group of Creative Writing juniors and seniors are given 48 hours (minus the locked door) to write a 10-minute play incorporating three student-submitted prompts: a character, a prop, and a line of dialogue. Each playwright gets the option to draw another prompt for one of the three items. Playwrights then cast other Creative Writing students who signed up to be actors, and with no less than two hours of rehearsal, the lights dim in the theater and the goofy spookiness begins.
“Part of the appeal for me about having the prompts as a method of creating new work in such a short period of time is that it eliminates the writers’ tendency to second guess themselves when they’re writing,” explained Mrs. Levine, who organized the event. “There is no time in Scarefest and you have to go with your first idea. Sometimes that’s your wackiest, strangest idea that you would have never written otherwise. The experience in the theater is this giddy creative embracing atmosphere.”
Before show time, the cast and writers tingled with electrical nerves, hoping for a fantastic audience reception.
“I’m looking forward to seeing my amazing actors bring out the best parts of my play in ways that I could never have imagined just seeing it on the computer screen,” said Julia Jorgensen, a junior playwright who penned ANIMATION 101. She stayed up until 3am the night before, perfecting dialogue.
Jorgensen’s play was about a teenage Victor Frankenstein attempting to make his cat talk. I played Angela, Victor’s 40-year-old no-nonsense mother, who had some of the best scathing lines of the night as audience members snapped and ooohed and shouted, “Burn!”
I also played Heather the Werewolf alongside a roster of characters that included witches, talking skulls, yaks, vegan werewolves, and more. With few costumes and props, the audience had to use their imagination to visualize the action as the writer read stage directions. It was exhilarating to see the world premiere of plays that did not exist three days ago, and humbling to read fellow writers’ extraordinary “baby” plays.
Mrs. Levine called the 48-hour writing process “creatively freeing.” Even though the prompts forced writers to write about things they wouldn’t ever think of, in a way, it gave the playwright permission to be silly in a low-pressure, high-excitement environment.
The Halloween-themed student-submitted prompts were original and just as creative as previous years (last year’s character was a horse disguised as a man).
“This year, there were twenty prompts put in by someone who wrote with a green pen,” said Mrs. Levine. “I want to know who that person is because they were all awesome! They were hilarious. Green pen person: whoever you are, wherever you are, thank you very much. Tip of my hat to you.”
Senior Lani Kording returned to Scarefest as a writer. She gave insights on how she dealt with the pressure of writing a play in two days.
“I made a nice playlist on Spotify and I locked myself in my room and write until its done,” she explained. “I’m looking forward to seeing everyone else’s plays. This is always the wild cards of plays—you never know what’s going to happen.”
Parents, teachers, and students in the audience showed their wild appreciation by cheering, clapping, and giving standing ovations throughout the night.
“It’s really cool seeing the evolution of all these writers,” said Matt Matusiewicz, a Creative Writing sophomore who played Igor in one of the plays. “I also like to see the evolution of acting techniques by people who aren’t necessarily actors by trade.”
Though Matusiewicz said playwriting is not his strength, he was very much inspired by the overwhelming display of talent on stage that night.
“I just want to go home and improve everything—scratch everything and start over,” he laughed, adding that perhaps he would sign up as a writer next year.
One of this year’s Scarefest highlights was the return of two OCSA alums to act in senior Ben Wolk’s play. Evan Swope and Chris Kelly from the class of 2015 played a hipster Frankenstein with a bucket hat and a talking skull respectively.
Swope said he wished he could still submit to OCSA’s Scarefest, one of his favorite OCSA pastimes.
“If you want to be a writer and you can go to high school in Southern California, OCSA’s the best place to be,” said Kelly.
This year’s Scarefest plays included: HUNGRY LIKE THE WOLF by Blue Fay and Sophie Neely; SPOOK SPOOK STORY by Chayse Pena and Katie Boer; ANIMATION 101 by Julia Jorgensen; DR. CRYSTA FRANKENSTEIN by Sinclair Adams; CREEPY AND CO. ENTERTAINMENT by Michelle Wang; CONSERVATIVE CREATURES by Isaac Lee; FRANK AND THE SKULL ON A STICK by Ben Wolk; GREATEST HITS by Lani Kording; SLEEPING SPELLS by Dominic Holloman.