Meat: It's What's On Stage

This past weekend, Harvard’s choicest selections of meat couldn’t be found in any dining hall or final club. Rather, that

This past weekend, Harvard’s choicest selections of meat couldn’t be found in any dining hall or final club. Rather, that honor went to the Adams House Poole Theater, the venue of choice for Meat: A Playwright’s Festival. The brainchild of co-producer and participant Maggie Lehrman ’03, the festival showcased diverse works of comedy and drama from 10 up-and-coming undergraduate playwrights.

The idea for Meat, which Lehrman claims “means whatever you want it to mean,” first occurred to the senior last May. As the Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club (HRDC)’s Experimental Theatre Coordinator, Lehrman is responsible for coordinating the organization’s show schedule. She thought of the idea for a playwright’s festival when she began thinking about how she could fill in potential holes in the schedule, like “at the very beginning of the year when people are wary of putting on a really complicated, technically involved play because of limited rehearsal time.” As it turned out, the Ex’s schedule filled up, but Lehrman had grown so attached to her idea that she bounced it around with Liz Janiak ’03 and convinced her to co-produce their show and help put it up in the Pool theater.

After brainstrorming the idea, Lehrman first e-mailed the HRDC general list to gauge interest, and afterwards she asked for writing samples from those interested. From that subsequent pool of writers, Lehrman then assembled the 13 playwrights that would eventually form the festival. Interestingly, she notes, “Only a few submitted plays for their sample; I got nonfiction, fiction and poetry too.” From that point on, the festival became much easier to organize. With its lack of complicated settings and sparse required tech work, the other important things the producers had to worry about were securing a location for the festival and mobilizing publicity. As Lehrman summarizes, “The biggest obstacle—although that’s not the right word, I think it would be more like a challenge—was to organize and mobilize all 13 of the playwrights. Also, it was really just me and Liz doing most of the behind-the-scenes stuff (Sarah Downer hung lights and Kyle Gilman made our poster and program), so I’d go from selling tickets to operating the lights to writing and directing my own scene in the festival, basically picking up all the loose ends.”

In regards to her personal ambitions as a writer, Lehrman says, “I’m pretty serious about playwriting as a long-term thing, and I would say two or three of the other playwrights are considering it for a profession as well.” One such playwright is Geordie Broadwater ’04. Broadwater, who wishes to pursue theater as a career, sees playwrighting as “something that everyone interested in theater should at least understand, and the only way to do that is by trying it out.” In his monologue The Watermelon Project, which he performed last Thursday and Friday nights, his only props were a hammer, a watermelon and a stand-in picture of an ex-girlfriend that developed from his “desire to bend the rules of ‘theater’—to actually freak the audience out for a second in a way a straight play cannot do.” Emily J. Carmichael ’04, first-time author of the touching three-part short play The Impossibles, writes in an e-mail that she too is interested in being a writer, but “also [a] painter, animator, cartoonist and rouge space pilot.”

For Alex Pasternack ’05, who is also a Crimson editor, figuring out the central theme of his play took a couple months of struggle. He writes in an e-mail, “I got to the point where all I could think about was just writing the damn thing. I wanted to explore avant garde theater and dance...but in the end, I was mostly inspired by the crazy process of making the play itself. I saw that the whole enterprise of meta, avant garde, absurdist art is pretty funny, I think, and so is having an actor in an bunny costume. The inspiration for that came from the fact that I like bunnies.”