Bake-Off combines writing, theatrics with spontaneity


Senior cinema production major Justin Snyder brainstorms ideas for his Bake-Off script. Photo: Stephanie Greenwood

Picture this: you want to bake a batch of cookies, but you don’t have a recipe. So you estimate ingredient proportions. You stir in a tablespoon of salt instead of a teaspoon and you grab baking powder instead of baking soda. What will you end up with? A complete disaster and ruined cookies to boot. However, throw together a mixture of creative playwrights, willing and able directors and actors and an empty stage, and what does the audience get? BJU’s Dramatic Arts Bake-Off, which will be performed Saturday at 7 and 8:30 p.m. in Performance Hall.

The Wednesday before the Bake-Off, volunteer playwrights (any student can participate) meet to receive their prompts, which may include the play’s genre, setting, required props or a number of characters to use. Twenty-four hours later, 15 to 25 scripts are submitted, and the dramatic arts faculty choose three plays that are the most producible.

Saturday morning, volunteer directors, actors and stage crew members convene around 7:30 a.m., and less than 12 hours later, a memorized and fully outfitted show is ready for performance.

“I had never participated in anything that required so much discipline and memorization in such a short period of time,” senior speech pedagogy major Anna Brown said.

The directors are assigned a set of actors and are handed scripts they’ve never seen before. The groups disperse across campus to practice essentially all day, breaking only for meals. This includes time on the stage experimenting with lighting and sound cues. Then, the actors grab their costumes and sprint to Performance Hall to perform.

“Our ultimate goal in hosting this festival is to help Christian artists develop their creative skills,” said Mr. Dave Schwingle, a member of the dramatic arts faculty and overseer of the annual festival. “It helps them create new stories to tell God’s truth and it gives them the belief that they can do this.”

For the first time this year, an optional 10-minute “talkback” will be held after each string of performances to give the audience an opportunity to respond. “We need honest feedback that fosters a learning environment,” Mr. Schwingle said. “After all, this is a learning process, not the final product.”

A certain risk/surprise element draws students to the plays—no one knows exactly what to expect. “There’s nothing else like it,” Anna said. “You can go see a play and say it was good, but most plays have had at least two months of preparation. [The Bake-Off is] put on in a matter of hours. You earn a level of respect for your friends and for theater in general after that.”

Mr. Schwingle also pointed out that students don’t often have the opportunity to watch contemporary plays on campus. “I can say without reservation that the stuff they come up with, though short, is always entertaining and interesting,” he said.

Tickets will be sold for $2 at the door. Money collected goes toward covering the expenses of the event and to the playwriting fund.