The Red Door Play Festival is once again a hit

The festival featured eight student-run shows

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From left to right: Emma McKinley '25, Steven Belloise '25 and Ariel Noble '23 in "Sorry, Wrong Number" by Lucille Fletcher and directed by Robin Title '25 // Photo by Caro Sutton-Schott '24

From Oct. 21-22, the Muhlenberg Theatre Association (MTA) took over the Red Door for their semesterly Red Door Play Festival (RDPF). This event is entirely student-run, from coordinators to directors, stage managers and actors. This time, it featured eight short plays of various genres.

The Red Door is a unique venue in the sense that it doesn’t have a traditional stage or backstage area for plays to be produced on. As such, RDPF directors were tasked with adapting material to the performance space.

One of these eight plays was entitled “Stop/Over,” and followed just two actors, playing former lovers, as they spend thirty-one hours together during a layover in New York City.

“The biggest challenge was being able to touch all the material in a meaningful way.”

– Emily Lang ‘23

“‘Stop/Over’ was a challenging piece to stage, period—it spans about a dozen different places (give or take) over just 30 minutes. The biggest challenge was finding ways to differentiate those spaces physically in a space like the Red Door with minimal sets and lighting,” said Emily Lang ‘23, who took on the task of directing this piece. “We played a lot with the architecture of the space, as well as with different levels. I had the actors standing, sitting on chairs, lying on the floor and wandering around the stage, just to name a few of these choices!” From the thunderous applause following the showings, it seems that her creative staging choices were well received.

The Red Door plays were not only limited in staging abilities but also faced time constraints. There were about four weeks between casting and performances, including technical rehearsals. Since many of the pieces performed dealt with heavy topics and themes, the directors faced the challenges of dealing with this content in a limited time frame. “Stop/Over” contained material relating to drugs and addiction as well as handling complicated feelings of love and grief, and Lang was faced with the prospect of guiding her actors through this.

“The biggest challenge was being able to touch all the material in a meaningful way. I really wanted to have those conversations about the text and the characters with my actors before we got on our feet, but that definitely cut into the amount of time we needed to stage the piece. We were still putting finishing touches on the piece the night before the first performance! I do have to applaud my actors on this front; Rowan [Joyce ‘24] and Henry [Floquet ‘25] were so willing to put the time and focus into making something we were all proud of and interested in putting on stage and they were so willing to play in rehearsal!” Lang reflected.

The RDPF is also a great opportunity for students to try out new theatrical roles. The MTA provides any student the opportunity to apply to direct/stage manage or audition. Many of the pieces are also student-written, including “Fair Trade,directed by Josh Freeman ‘23 and written by Taylor Reed ‘23. 

“I always think the Red Doors is such a fun performance experience, especially this year.”

– Sydney Holliday ‘23

Freeman shares many of the same sentiments that Lang expressed about the difficulties the nature of the festival poses, “I have always wanted to try out directing and Red Doors was a phenomenal opportunity to do so. The space is a little bit of a challenge but I was able to work it out. The play I chose was… a small-scale show that fit perfectly in the Red Door space. One of the big challenges this year was we had a shorter time frame to prepare the show due to the holidays and fall break being in the middle of our time window. This meant the actors had abbreviated time to really immerse themselves in the text and memorize their lines. All of the actors did a phenomenal job! I am really happy how my show turned out and I loved watching everyone else’s work.”

Based on audience reactions, all of the directors succeeded in overcoming these difficulties to put on some incredible plays. Each piece truly brought the Red Door to life in a new and exciting way.

“The cast was wonderful and it was really great to see everything come together. I’m very proud of them all!” says Oy Adebajo ‘24, writer and director of “The Stories We Tell To Cope.”

The credit cannot go entirely to the directors, as the actors put on some incredible performances as well, all of which were appreciated by the directors and audience.

Sydney Holliday ‘23, who portrayed Eleanor in “Thin Kisses and Vengeful Skies” written and directed by Johnny Veglia ‘24, expressed, “I always think the Red Doors is such a fun performance experience, especially this year. It was really fun to kind of figure out how we get all these plays together in two weeks. And just being able to work with such a short timeline and realizing how much you could get done.”

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