On September 10, iNtuitons Experimental Theatre, Penn’s only student–run experimental theater group, produced its tenth–annual Alternative Theatre Festival (ATF) as part of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. The festival consisted of four entirely student written, directed, acted and produced plays and was held in the lobby of the Platt Performing Arts Center
Although one reviewer from the now–discontinued Philadelphia City Paper criticized the location in 2013 as being little more than a “big room with a shoddy coffee bar, sleep–inducing fluorescent house lights and inconvenient construction,” for being held in a place so often associated with exhausting hours of rehearsal and the smell of sweat, the festival was quite pleasant in atmosphere (Ed. note: Also, like shitting on people is our job, stay in your lane). Student crew members sat at the entrance, and one director, Mikey Miller (C '18), asked incoming audience members for adjectives, verbs and nouns, to be used later in the evening.
The first show, Uncanny Valley, written by Jeremy Cohen (C '17) and Laura Cosgrove (C '16), was the most confusingly alternative piece of all four. With script in hand, the five actors spat out buzzwords and crude sexual jokes to comment on corporate culture and sexual harassment in Silicon Valley. Voiceovers provided some sense of context, but the show, being so short, did not seem to quite make the point it wanted to, leaving the audience unclear on what the point was supposed to be.
The second show was by far the least “alternative” of the pieces and resembled a more “traditional” play, striking many emotional chords in its few short scenes. Four Weeks, written by Izzy López (C '19) and directed by Savannah Lambert (C '18), followed an overly enthusiastic father–to–be (Blake London, C '18) and a much less enthusiastic mother–to– be (Tess Speranza, C '18). Starting with scenes in which the couple attempt to conceive (including a hilarious dessert–related innuendo), the play quickly progresses to show how the mother–to–be worries over her desire and ability to be a mother in contrast to her husband’s confidence and joy after conceiving. Their grief, her guilt and his support after miscarrying give the piece a bittersweet, yet hopeful ending.
Tinder (Noun) was about (you guessed it!) Tinder. Directed by the aforementioned Mikey Miller, the show used the words he collected at the ticket line to fill in blanks in the script (a compilation of real Tinder conversations) in the style of Mad Lib. It led to some outrageous lines that had the audience giggling and cringe–laughing, such as:
“Would you ever skydive me?”
“Would you rather be shot in the fallopian tube, or be stuck in a hole with a fuzzy coat on?”
“Bb my molars are pierced.”
“My bonnet is not on my penishead.”
The scenes were also punctuated with Spongebob style timestamps (Three. Hours. Later.) and filled with enormous personalities and distinct performances from all four actors, Adam Mansell (C '18), Ashley Stinnett (C '17), Chelsea Cylinder (C '17) and Cohen.
The last piece, aptly and irritatingly titled Presented Without Comment, was a whirlwind. Cohen and London retook the stage as versions of themselves, pulling audience members into a rule filled (or rule–less?) game show, practicing self– help and yoga, and calling themselves “Coco” and “Big Ben.” Although the audience was later assured that there was indeed a script and that the audience members were pulled at random, the show was interspersed with bizarre yet witty improvisations in a quick stream of consciousness style. The show was confusingly hilarious.
Overall, the festival was short and sweet, displaying a wide range of interests and talent that mostly landed well with the audience. iNtuitons managed to develop four solid shows that kept the audience’s interest, with clear ideas of what it wanted to do, even if some did not reach its intended goals. Be sure to make the trip to next year’s ATF and check out more student written and produced shows.