Undergraduate Student Blog, Speaking of Princeton

Undergraduate Student Blog

Author: Aidan Gray ’18

Bethesda, Maryland • Classics View Profile

In 24 hours

A glimpse inside Princeton's play festival

The premise of the 24-hour play festival seems ridiculous at first: Writers giving up their precious sleep to draft an entirely original one-act play between midnight and 8 a.m.; actors willing to perform live at 9 p.m., after only seeing the script for 12 hours; an audience that wants to see a festival of plays created in a single caffeine-fueled night. And yet, without fail, this is one of my favorite theatrical events on Princeton’s campus every single year.

Part of the appeal is watching the show, of course. You see how directors and actors interpret your work. You laugh at the absurdity of it. You hear a line in your play and think: “Gosh, I barely remember writing that!” But, for me, what's most appealing is the writing process. At 4 a.m., writing in the basement of Princeton’s Theater Intime—surrounded by old posters and props—the world seems to have different rules. This is a universe of unbridled creativity. Absolutely anything can happen. (No one said it had to be good.)

I've found that Princeton students are more or less susceptible to writer’s block. You are encouraged to meet very high standards. And for this, I am grateful: My writing has grown enormously since I began my Princeton career. As I work on my novel for the creative writing certificate, I try to keep in mind all the advice I’ve been given by my writing professors. I think a lot about the basic rules of storytelling I learned in workshop classes. I mentally run through the novels I love and the short stories that blew me away, trying to craft something great—word by word.

But never in the 24-hour play festival. There, the only rule is to have fun. I can make a scene that’s a four-minute-long Chekhov’s gun joke. I can create a character who’s a six-year-old rapper. I can give a monologue to a man who runs a successful rubber duck factory because, well, why not? And it’s good to remember, in my opinion, that while art is supposed to be disciplined, discipline is not a goal. It’s exciting to go off the beaten path and do something different.