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College of Arts and Sciences

Live student theatre festival goes online

By: Lindsey White
A&S Communications
August 27, 2020

When a shortened on-campus spring semester necessitated the cancellation of in-person events, theatre students in the Cornell University Department of Performing and Media Arts (PMA) did what they do best: they got creative. The team behind the popular semiannual student-run Festival24 quickly changed course and produced an online iteration of the event: Festival24.0.

On September 5, at 7:30 p.m., Festival24 will once again take the screen for a live event of original works produced in one day. Admission is free. Information on how to view the performance will be posted in the Facebook event.

Actor sign-ups are available to all Cornell students on a first-come, first-serve basis. Interested actors can register online.

“At the time we decided to put on Festival24.0, it was already about two months into quarantine and about the time that many theatre events would have been happening on campus, had we not been sent home,” explains producer Arin Sheehan ’22. “So it was already a very melancholy time, especially for performing arts students.”

The regularly scheduled spring Festival24 had taken place in January, but other spring events and productions at PMA were canceled or postponed. “That was when I kind of realized that as an event, Festival24 is supposed to bring students together,” says Sheehan. “If we couldn't physically be together, maybe we could do so digitally.” Producing the one-off Festival24.0 online in the spring prepared the students to move this fall’s production online as well.

As the first theatre event of the semester, Festival24 offers first-year and transfer students an introduction to the theatre community at Cornell.

“Students from across the campus get involved to create something beautiful and new,” says Sheehan. “For me as producer, I love the payoff at the performance when everyone gets to show off their great work to the audience; it may be a lot of work to get to that point, but I think it is well worth it.”

One advantage of the online format is freedom from space constraints: students will perform five original plays instead of the typical four. Says Sheehan: “For the audience, it is a whirlwind of different plays, stretching different genres and styles, meaning there will always be something for everyone."