The Power of Petite Plays: Green Room’s Ten Minute Play Festival Wows

The Amherst College Green Room put on its annual Ten Minute Play Festival this weekend. Senior Managing Editor Theo Hamilton ʼ23 summarizes the short and punchy sketches.

The Power of Petite Plays: Green Room’s Ten Minute Play Festival Wows
The Amherst College Green Room put on its annual Ten Minute Play Festival this weekend. Senior Managing Editor Theo Hamilton ʼ23 summarizes the short and punchy sketches. Photo courtesy of Emi Eliason ’23.

This past weekend, the Amherst College Green Room put on its annual Ten Minute Play Festival, a collection of six short student-written plays performed in Johnson Chapel. The festival, which has become a Green Room tradition over the last several years, invites students to experiment with playwriting through its accessible 10-minute format, and gives them a chance to see their original pieces performed. This year, the plays foregrounded a number of parodies while also incorporating drama and discussion of more serious topics to provide a fast-paced and entertaining start to the Green Room’s spring semester schedule.

The festival opened with a performance of “A Soul Isn’t Worth Much,” written by Ross Kilpatrick ’24E and directed by Rachel Hendrickson ’25. As the lights dimmed, the audience’s attention was centered on a figure (Ricky Andrade ’25) scribbling away at his notepad on a table covered by discarded scraps of crumpled-up paper. As we learn when a mysterious stranger (Grace Walker ’24) enters the room, the would-be writer is Ernest Hemingway, albeit a young version of him still struggling to find literary success and working as a journalist. To Hemingway’s disappointment, it quickly becomes apparent that the guest is not a fan of his work, but his interest is piqued by a supernatural offer that leaves him weighing the value of fame and success against happiness and a long life.

After the cast and crew managed the first of five remarkably fast set changes, the next play — “The Haunting,” written by Audrey Rosevear ’22 and directed by Anika Grimsrud ’24 — took things in a more comedic direction. Featuring an inept, first-day-on-the-job ghost (Max Hauschildt ’25), alongside Pete (Maryam Abuissa ’24), a paranoid new homeowner, and Emma (Sam Beach ’22), his occultist housemate/beard, “The Haunting” twists the standard haunted house plot by presenting Pete and Emma as completely unimpressed by the ghost’s haunting. Instead, the two spend most of the 10 minutes in an increasingly heated argument about whether the ghost is actually a ghost or an undercover FBI agent trying to unveil Pete’s homosexuality, while the ghost is eventually left begging them to perform a banishing ritual.

“The Pearly Gates” (written and directed by Langston Prince ’25), also features the undead: this time in a waiting-room-like setting that is apparently heaven. St. Peter (Suvansh Manektala ’22) escorts newcomer Jamie Clarke (Revival Afolabi ’25) through the pearly gates, where they are surprised to find that their companions for the rest of eternity are longtime residents George Washington (Eleanor Winterer ’24), Barry Goldwater (Austin Xiong ’23), and Karl Marx (Free Rabb ’25). The four are left to decide whether to stay in the waiting room for eternity or walk through an exit that leads to nonexistence. God walked out that door almost two decades ago, on “the day the second Matrix film was released. She couldn’t stand the disappointment. We lost a lot of good people that day,” Marx says. Jamie eventually decides to step through the door, while each of the historical figures stay behind.

The plays’ effectiveness was heightened by the 10-minute play structure, which gives each play enough time to reflect on or make a parody of its subject matter while simultaneously keeping any individual aspect from becoming overplayed. As an audience member, I felt engaged and kept on my toes by the thematic transitions from drama to slapstick to political comedy, with the contrasts produced by each transition making every play more enjoyable.

“Couples’ Therapy,” written by Leland Culver ’23 and directed by Bianca Sass ’23, was a case in point, providing a dramatic tone shift from the last two comedies toward a more experimental format that left me appreciating the contrasting potentials of both forms. The play opens with Margaret (Audrey Rosevear ’22 and Fen Riverston ’25), a woman struggling with depression, in what seems to be a therapy session with her psychologist, Dr. Sherry Griffin (Ella Rose ’23 and Piper Mohring ’25). But in one of the most impressively surreal plays that I’ve seen, the situation is complicated as the line between Margaret’s imagination and reality blurs, and questions are raised about whether Dr. Griffin is actually her therapist or her partner.

After “Couples’ Therapy,” the curtains lifted to reveal a first date between Tighe, an aspiring stand-up comic (Sarah Quiros ’23), and Amelia (Yaffa Segal ’25). The twist of “Idiosyncrasies” — written by Nathan Grove ’23 and directed by Shay Hernandez ’23 — comes from the fact that Tighe is advised throughout the date by an angel on one shoulder (Eva Tsitohay ’24E) and a devil on the other (Reina Corcoran ’23). Describing these two figures as an angel and a devil might be too simplistic. Over the course of the date, the devil tries to convince Tighe to act spontaneously and “be yourself,” while the angel tries to keep things composed and respectable. After trying to balance between these two poles, Tighe ends up deciding to embrace radical honesty, closing the play with a hilarious and genuinely unnerving rant that veers between advice on investing in NFTs, an analysis of Zendaya’s acting skills, and self-pity about getting called a furry on Twitter.

That emotional rollercoaster was followed by a literal rollercoaster during the festival’s final play, as a pair of thrill-seekers prepare to ride the state-of-the-art, “three times taller than any other coaster out there,” Masochist Mountain in “The Seventh Inversion,” written and directed by Luke Herzog ’23. As the characters begin their gradual ascent to the top of the coaster, the play experiments with the mad scientist trope as one of the riders, Brian (Matt Vitelli ’24), first reveals a worrying amount of knowledge about this roller coaster’s design and a fascination with serial killers, and then begins to drop hints about loose axles and unlocked buckles. The other rider, Heather (Caroline Seitz ’22), is unsure whether to be fascinated or terrified, and ends up being both through the rides’ various twists and turns.

All in all, the Ten Minute Play Festival’s rapid fire mix of content provided an exciting, funny, and thought-provoking start to Green Room’s set of performances for the semester, as well as a great chance to see Amherst students’ original writing across a wide range of genres and topics.

The Green Room’s next show, “The Flick,” will be performed from Friday, April 15, to Sunday, April 17, in the Cole Assembly Room.

Recordings of previous Ten Minute Play Festivals can be found on the Green Room’s YouTube page, where the plays from this year’s festival will also be uploaded.