By LAYANN BASILEH
The 20th annual Festival of the Absurd will be taking place on Wednesday, March 1 and Thursday, March 2 in the Big Theater during office hours. For the last twenty years, UHS’ AP English Literature and Composition students have written and produced original absurdist plays, and created artwork as well, to be featured in the festival.
The idea of the festival was originally devised by Ms. Jeanne Jelnick, a former AP Literature teacher at UHS, in 1997 as an alternate way for students to showcase their understanding of the AP Lit Postmodern Drama unit, in the absence of an essay. The festival also allowed students to exhibit their creativity and personal expression in a fun and silly format. Since Jelnick retired last year, Mr. Martin Stibolt (English Dept.), Ms. Amber Linehan (English Dept.) and Ms. Susanne Fitzpatrick (English Dept.) will be taking over the organization of the festival. Fitzpatrick said, “I’m pleased to continue Mrs. Jelnick’s tradition – I was fortunate enough to be her AP Lit partner for 14 years. This is our first year without her, but I feel confident that Mr. Stibolt and Mrs. Linehan and I will revel in the works of this year’s artists and authors.”
All AP Lit students are required to submit a one act absurdist play, working together in small groups to produce a script with a ten minute running time. Out of the roughly 125 scripts submitted, 8 plays are chosen to be performed in the festival. The students manage nearly all aspects of the festival themselves, from writing and performing the plays to managing the stage crew to constructing the sets. “Students have always embraced the challenge,” said Fitzpatrick.
This year’s lineup includes the plays Apollo 29.5 by Vani Dewan (Sr.), Kerri Pelekoudas (Sr.) and Corinne Alsop (Sr.), Masquerade by Josie Bachman (Sr.), Janine Bryant (Sr.) and Gentil Nguyen (Sr.), Accepted by Aneesah Akbar (Sr.), Bethany Huang (Sr.) and Erin Kim (Sr.), Passing Time by Calissa Bacino (Sr.), Game Over! by Youngmoo Ki (Sr.) and Jinny Hwang (Sr.), A Poorly Written Play by Maia DiTolla (Sr.), A Toast to Freedom by Ariana Apostol (Sr.), Angela Dong (Sr.) and Diana Zhang (Sr.) and I Met God, She’s Black by Laura Yang (Sr.), Anneke Gustafson (Sr.), Sandeep Kambhampati (Sr.) and Mackenzie Zambo (Sr.).
Bryant said, “At first we didn’t even know what to write about. But after we all sat down together, we came up with a subject and just started writing. We’re excited to turn our imaginations into a reality.”
Alsop added that the directing process has been going smoothly so far. “Directing is easy because Vani and I are portraying the main characters. Since we wrote the play, we know exactly what we want from the characters.” She also offered a cryptic yet fitting absurd idea of what the audience can look forward to in her play.“Classroom desks, Maxwell Han’s acting, a surprise Fran appearance and puns too!”
Mr. Stibolt said he encourages anyone who has spare time during office hours to attend the festival and watch the performances.“It’s a unique experience. No two plays are the same, and no two years are similar. It is also a celebration of creativity and collective effort. Lastly, it is a whole lot of fun to watch an absurdist drama, laugh, yet remained puzzled as to whether or not you really understood anything that you witnessed, or even if it really happened.”