During this now almost-yearlong pandemic – can you believe it? – the arts and entertainment community has had to get creative in the face of public health strategies to keep people separated to help curb the spread of COVID-19.
This includes the student actors of Durango High School’s Troupe 1096, who, despite not being able to take the stage for their performances, have still managed to keep things interesting this year, starting with their Halloween radio show, “Pontypool.”
And now, they’re offering themselves up to judgment with their first-ever Play and Tech Festival, which will kick off Saturday online on a YouTube channel dedicated to the festival. Audience members may vote for their favorite submissions (you have a week to watch), and winners will be announced Feb. 12.
The free festival will be made up of both recorded plays and tech presentations, a total of about 12 submissions, said Troupe 1096 Director Ben Mattson, who said the idea for the festival just came to him when he was talking to his sister about the semester.
“It kind of coincided with a unit I was doing in my theater class at school – we were going over short play structure, like five-minute play structure ... so I thought what a cool way to get kids to generate their own material in a time frame that was doable and having a lot of students working on small projects rather than trying to get everyone together to work on something big, just felt like the right choice to make,” he said. “And then the pieces kind of fell into place.”
Once the festival started rolling, Mattson was also able to enlist the help of fellow thespians Teresa Carson, Jenny Fitz-Reynolds, Jason Lythgoe, Geoffrey Johnson and guest judge Melissa Firlit, a New York City-based theater artist.
Firlit will meet with each of the students over Zoom for virtual live feedback sessions.
Sophomore Aiden Hurley and junior Helene Brimhall are two troupe members who have collaborated on a short film they will have in the festival.
Called “Waiting for You,” the submission has “kind of a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ theme to it,” Hurley said. “It’s inspired from a teen perspective of the whole 2020 situation, even though that’s really not what the story is, it kind if has an underlying message of that.”
The duo worked on their project over the course of about three weeks, Hurley said.
While Hurley and Brimhall have worked together in the past on film and theater projects, Brimhall said this is the first time they shared all the duties.
“This is the first time we collaborated on a script and even filming it, directing it together,” she said. “I’m personally glad we got the opportunity to at least create something to put out there.”
And now that DHS has returned to in-person learning, Mattson said the troupe is excited to put themselves back in front of audiences – even if it’s virtual for now.
“It feels different, obviously, and we can’t wait to get back on stage, but I think especially this semester, now that we kind of have a flow with school and the new feeling of all of that, I think we’re pretty organized and excited to share some work,” Mattson said.