May 31, 2011

Plays set on campus are featured June 2 in the Big Apple

Cornell Theatre Night

Cornell Theatre Night is set for June 2, 6:30-9:30 p.m., at the Snapple Theatre Center, 1627 Broadway at 50th Street in New York City. Ther will be a networking wine and cheese reception at 6:30 p.m. followed by a presentation of short plays at 7:30 p.m. and a networking even at 8:30 p.m. Advance registration is $12, $15 at the door. Tickets are available online.

Plays featured:

• "Arts and Sciences," by Sheri Wilner '91; about the connection or disconnection between two Cornellians.

• "Cox Library, 2:00 p.m," by Tony Hogrebe '04 and Danny Ross '06; a musical fantasy.

• "Open House," by graduate student Aoise Stratford; inspired by the College of Veterinary Medicine.

• "Saturday, 1:24 a.m.," by David L. Williams '98; two young Cornellians face a dilemma.

• "Triple Date," by Daina Schatz '03; Cornell students on a group date at Stella's.

• "Yawper on the Balch Bridge," by Lauren Feldman '01; the dreams that connect Cornellians.

From a comedy about cows discussing their fate at Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine's annual open house to a story of the trials, tribulations and dreams that connect generations of Cornell women, seven Cornell playwrights, composers and lyricists will showcase new plays June 2 at the Snapple Center in midtown Manhattan.

Cornell Theatre Night features six short plays written, directed, performed, designed and produced by alumni and current Cornellians. Each play is set somewhere on or around the Cornell campus.

The networking event, sponsored by Cornellians in Entertainment, will bring together professional artists working in New York City, said Jason Brantman '97, who is directing three of the six plays. "The setting of the plays at Cornell helps people remember their Cornell experience and see the connections they have with each other," he said. "But even someone without the Cornell experience will enjoy this group of plays."

Bruce Levitt, professor of directing and acting, is directing the other three plays and taught many of the event's organizers at Cornell. He said the process started with a meeting at the Snapple Center, managed by Catherine Russell '77. The organizers then issued a call for plays, which netted 17 proposals, from which six were selected. Auditions were held, and rehearsals began.

Aoise Stratford, a doctoral student in the Department of Theatre, Film and Dance, developed the idea for her play, "Open House," after she and her children went to the Vet School's annual public event and saw a fistulated cow, one in which visitors can see into or insert a plastic-gloved arm into the cow's rumen, part of its stomach. The cows are used to aid in research, teaching and veterinary care for other cows. In her play, two cows are candidates to be the next fistulated cow. While one cow is excited about becoming a "celebrity," the other plots her escape.

"I remember thinking that it was incredible that we could do this kind of research," Stratford said, "but creepy at the same time."

Playwright Sheri Wilner '91, one of the event's creators, has the play "Arts and Sciences" on the program.

"I have so many great memories of Cornell, but unfortunately great memories don't often make a great play," Wilner said. Her play, based on a true story, concerns a fine arts major who, while painting a tree on the Arts Quad, meets a plant pathology student intent on taking samples from the tree, which is actually sick and dying. The play illustrates the conflict and need for understanding between the arts and sciences.

"I feel like there's an instant connection and even rapport between two people who went to Cornell," Wilner said. "It's so hard to break into the theater business and expand your network, but events like this one are a great way to do so."

"When I wrote my play, I had in mind a specific tree behind Sage Chapel, and I know another play is set at a certain bench in Collegetown," she said.

Anaiza Morales '00, M.Eng. '01, MBA '02, of the Cornellians in Entertainment group, which was formed a few years ago as a sister organization to Cornell in Hollywood, provided invaluable support for the event, Brantman said.

"New York City is a hub for Cornell alumni involved in entertainment, especially theater," he said. "This group gives us a chance to connect and meet others who are working in the field."

Kathy Hovis is director of marketing for the Department of Theatre, Film and Dance.