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The Daily Tar Heel

Long Story Short features small plays by UNC students

For the fifth year in a row, the writing for the screen and stage minor will give aspiring screenwriters and playwrights an experience ordinarily reserved for the most successful professionals in entertainment. 

The Long Story Shorts festival is a two-night event at Kenan Theatre that will put on eight one-act plays written by seniors. The original works will be put to the stage by a team of four directors. Each production will run for approximately 10 minutes. 

Professor Dana Coen, director of the writing for the screen and stage minor, handpicked the winning scripts for the festival.

Coen said the festival's philosophy is typified by a Don Delillo quote: “I think a playwright realizes after he finishes working on the script that this is only the beginning. What will happen when it moves into three dimensions?”

To begin the process of moving each script to the Kenan Theatre stage, writers and actors are taken through readings, and collaborate on important creative decisions.  

Senior Schyler Martin, who is on the Board of Directors for The Daily Tar Heel, went through this experience with her play, “Death and Dignity." 

“It was phenomenal," she said. "I almost cried while watching my own mediocre play because the actors are so good.”

Senior Jessica Zambrano, a former Daily Tar Heel staff writer, wrote the play “Comedy and Error,” and was challenged by discussing her ideas and characters with the directors and actors, some of whom were total strangers. 

“I saw what other people can bring to the table," Zambrano said. "I listened to how they read the lines, and then we saw what we needed to rework, and sometimes the actors come up with something better than what I wrote. It has helped me learn to work with everyone’s contributions.”

Guest professor Serena Ebhardt is one of the four directors involved with Long Story Shorts and is in charge of two of the short plays. 

“For me, the most rewarding part was seeing both the writers and some of the actors getting their feet wet,” she said. “I loved seeing them find their voice — find their confidence.”

The festival does not only benefit those who want to be playwrights in the future. Senior Charlie Kelsey wants to become a talent manager and producer in the film industry, yet he said he found the small-scale theatrical project to be a valuable experience. His play is called "Snowmen." 

“I got to deal with actors and directors, and when you are the guy with the idea and people are asking you for creative direction, it gives you an idea of what it would be like to be a producer," he said.

Coen said the idea for the festival came when he realized that he did not want the compelling and unique stories of his students to just disappear into a filing cabinet.

“The first year that we had the minor, I read the plays that were turned in, and I thought, 'These are good. These should be produced.'”

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