Arts & Events

Town Crier amplifies voice of actors, writers, directors

The theater scene at Puget Sound has begun again this year, starting with the Student Initiative Theatre’s (SIT) 11th annual Town Crier Speaks Festival. The Festival is composed of several—this year, seven—ten-minute one-act plays, all of which are student-run.
The plays this year ranged in subjects from playing Scrabble with a salacious grandmother to a community having recently fought off a zombie apocalypse, and everything in between. There were tales of new relationships, superheroes, awkward dating, offensive jokes about petite persons and a play with the self-explanatory title, “Have I Got a Story to Tell You.”
So what is it that connects all of these plays together?
“This year, for the first time, production managers offered a theme up to playwrights in our call for submissions,” Hayley Hilmes, this year’s production manager and a four-year veteran of the Festival, said.
“This theme was ‘Exposing Ourselves.’ It was presented as an open-ended dramaturgical tool, and the theme of exposure provides a fascinating thread that can be traced through the different plays. These plays are full of hidden identities, personal revelations, and vulnerability.”
The exposing, it could be said, was done as much by the creators of the Festival’s plays as it was within the plays themselves. Being student-run, the Festival gives a chance to allow the students to make their voice heard through their acting, their writing and even their directing.
“The production team solicits submissions from students and recent graduates over the summer,” Hilmes said, “and then directors collaborate to select plays for the festival.” The commitment to developing student writing is the most important aspect of Town Crier and of Student Initiative Theatre in general.
“There is no other forum for student-written plays currently on campus. TCSF was created to fill that need,” Hilmes said.
“I wanted to write for the festival to show a different type of theatre to our student body,” senior Natalie Keller said, who is the treasurer of SIT and the writer of the play It’s All in the Timing, which “literally only has 17 mostly repeating lines, is a clowning piece, and explores what we can communicate without words in ten minutes. There was something I wanted to say and the festival gave me an opportunity to do that.”
“As for the acting in the festival, I will encourage anyone to audition and participate. Acting in the show is not too time consuming and is just fun. It is a great way to get involved with the on-campus theatre community,” she continued.
It’s clear that the Festival is of the students, by the students and for the students. As many of us know, student involvement in extra-curriculars is as important for expanding our lovely liberal arts minds at Puget Sound as the academics are, and TCSF is a prime example of this. In fact, it’s the reason why the Town Crier Speaks Festival earned its quirky name.
In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act III Scene 2, Hamlet tells the actors performing in a play to “Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue. But if you mouth it, as many of your players do, I had as lief the town crier spoke my lines.” The play, as some may recall, was written by Hamlet to prove his uncle’s guilt for killing the King of Denmark, Hamlet’s father.
“He tells the professional actors that if they over-exaggerate, if they are too over-the-top, then he might as well have the town crier, a news boy off the street shouting dramatic headlines to hock papers, playing their part. The name ‘Town Crier Speaks’ refers to the fact that we are just students, not professionals, not trained. Though we are sometimes fumbling, our work sometimes unpolished, this is a space for our voices,” Hilmes explained.
Despite this disclaimer that the student-run Festival may be amateurish, I would encourage everyone to go see these well-performed, witty and thought-provoking plays when the time comes next year.