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UAF Winter Shorts

Updated: May 2, 2023

Two actors walk away from a cellphone in the foreground
Scene from the "I, Phone" production

The UAF Student Drama Association's Winter Shorts always seem like kind of a scattershot affair, with content coming from who knows where. But this year, to their credit, they solicited material from only local playwrights. The result was an uneven evening, but the upside for me is two of my plays got produced, Duo and I, Phone.

I've seen Duo produced before and, in fact, I actually starred in a production back in 2011, which was a ton of fun - though my overriding memory is of a co-star missing an entrance and me having to ad-lib for 10 seconds that felt like an eternity. Duo is about an Adam West-Batman style superhero who gets stuck with a stridently feminist new sidekick, and it's probably the best thing I've ever written. Certainly its gotten the most productions. The UAF version was, well, okay. Pacing was way too slow, but I mean, they're a bunch of 19-year-olds, I feel like I should cut them some slack.

The more interesting part of the show was their production of "I, Phone," which has turned into my second-most produced play. It's about a cellphone that starts giving its owner relationship advice, eventually convinces her to reconcile with her ex-boyfriend, then reveals the whole thing was a clever plot to reconnect with his old flame - her ex's cellphone. As written, the play relies heavily on two twists: first, when the phone starts talking sentiently, and second, when we figure out its real intent. This comes in the last line, which generally gets some truly uproarious laughs.

But UAF's approach threw me for a loop, because in my script, the phones sit on stage, and the voices come from offstage. UAF instead elected to reveal the actors: they're dressed all in black and hold the phones in their hands. I was a bit dumbfounded when I first realized what was happening, but I temporarily came around to the idea: having the actor on stage allows for a lot more physical and facial expression, obviously. For most of the play it's a clear and productive choice.

But then the end...we see that the boyfriend's phone is played by an actress a good two minutes before the end of the play. And the two people playing the phones are making googly eyes at each other. So what is set up as a surprise ending is revealed waaaaay early. And it totally deflates the coda of the piece. This bummed me out, because the play had some decent performances and the use of visible actors really seemed to work, up to a point. Possibly there would be a way to include actors and still preserve the surprise ending, but I'm not sure if it's possible to pull that off.

So I was both pleased and disappointed with the novel interpretation of my work. But not offended because, hey, anyone who wants to stage my stuff, I'm still flattered.

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