Students present WIRED in 24-hour whirlwind

By Elizabeth Zakaim
Arts & Entertainment Editor

The characters freeze in time during ‘Repeat Sign.’ (Natalie La Spisa / Staff Photographer)

After 24 hours of writing scripts, memorizing lines and losing sleep, the actors, directors and stage members were finally ready for their performance.

On Saturday, Oct. 14, members of the College’s theater programs, TCNJ Musical Theatre and All College Theatre, performed five shows, which they had only one day to put together.

As part of this fall’s WIRED, students began writing their scripts at 8 p.m. and finished at 4 a.m. Rehearsal started at 7 a.m. the next morning, all with the help of the arbiters, the head honchos, of the program.

The head arbiter of the event, junior English and secondary education major Katherine MacQueen, was responsible for making sure everything went smoothly behind the scenes during both rehearsal and opening night.

She and the arbiters were also responsible for adding different themes and twists to each story.

“We give them five twists throughout the night while they’re writing,” MacQueen said. “It makes all their shows a little quirky in some sort of way.”

While billed as a competition, there was much more motivating participants than just winning.

“It doesn’t matter because it’s WIRED,” said junior psychology major Kira Cohen of the relaxed and motivated atmosphere between her fellow cast and crew.

Cohen played Valerie in the first show, “Of Mice and Milkshakes,” a lighthearted production about high school students who time travel from the ’50s to 2017. She participated to form new friendships and memories, not to worry about getting everything perfect.

“The point is to get up there and enjoy the experience,” Cohen said, “not necessarily to learn your lines perfectly.”

The plot for each show was left under the discretion of each group’s scriptwriters, but with just a few exceptions –– each group had to integrate different plot twists and running themes throughout their performances.

For instance, each script had to include and complete the phrase, “you’ve heard of Elf on the Shelf, but have you heard of…?”

This was done in a number of creative ways, some lewd and others silly.

During “Of Mice and Milkshakes,” which was directed by junior secondary education and math dual major Alyssa Fanelli, the young characters traveled through time from the shy days of the mid 1950s to the in-your-face attitudes of the College’s students of 2017. A stereotypical fraternity brother, Mick Jagger (played by senior junior communications studies and journalism and professional writing double major Benjamin Zander), hit on poor Barbara, an avid student from the 1950’s James Dean High.

“You’ve heard of Elf on the Shelf,” Mick Jagger said leaning toward her and wiggling his eyebrows, “but have you heard of hoe on a bro?”

Both the ’50s kids and the audience felt nothing less than scandalized. The feeling only grew more prominent when the audience, and Mick Jagger, learned that innocent Barbara was actually R. Barbara Gitenstein, future president of the College.

Each show engaged the crowd, either through humor, or by actually breaking down the metaphorical fourth wall in the midst of the performance.

During “Repeat Sign,” the fourth play of the night directed by junior communication studies major Gretchen Newell, the characters let the audience members decide how the play would end –– either happily or horribly. Even the actors hadn’t yet read the scripts to either ending.

The audience voted against the happy ending, but the scriptwriters obviously saw that coming. No WIRED production has ever ended badly, said senior chemistry major Eric Schreiber reading off of his script. And this one was no exception.

Each play brought its own quirks, whether it was the alien hiding from the FBI on a farm in Alabama in “Farms: The Final Frontier,” or the identity of the mysterious murderer in “The Golf Cart Killer.”

By the end of the night, cast and audience members alike were eager to learn the outcome of the competition.

Winners included senior communication studies major Lauren Vogel, as best stage manager, junior marketing major Paul Chukrallah, as best director and “Farms: The Final Frontier,” as best show.

“It was definitely hard earned this semester,” Chukrallah said. “Each show was so well realized and stood out in such unique ways.”

The experience was what he hoped it would be and more. Chukrallah has participated in WIRED since his freshman year and he’s enjoyed every minute.

“It’s easily one of my favorite parts of being at TCNJ,” he said. “I’m always happy to be surrounded by good friends and good theater.”