Instead of binge-watching the newest Netflix original series this past weekend, participants in Temple’s Insomnia Theater group wrote, directed and starred in their own obscure Netflix creations.
Over the course of 24 hours, writers created a script related to their chosen genre, actors learned their newly written lines and directors helped bring these miniature productions to the stage Saturday night for Insomnia Theater’s “Netflix Spectacular.”
Just before auditions Friday night, members of Insomnia Theater’s executive board came up with “obscure Netflix genres” from which the seven groups of writers could choose to serve as the theme of their production.
Cara Glatfelter, president of Insomnia Theater, said the executive board borrowed some obscure genres, like “Gritty British Prison Movies,” directly from a Buzzfeed article online. They also created some genres of their own, like “Crappy Indie Documentaries.”
“We were just kind of throwing around adjective, adjective, noun to try to come up with new ideas and try to make them as funny and diverse as possible,” said Glatfelter, a senior media studies and production major.
This is the first year Insomnia Theater is officially adopting the practice of having one “giant overarching theme with little different prompts” for each group of writers, directors and actors.
This method was given a trial run last semester during Insomnia Theater’s two spring performances, and the club officially adopted the theme strategy starting with this performance, their first of the year.
“We used to pick just one word and have everybody use that as their central theme,” Glatfelter said. “A lot of people found that it was kind of limiting; a lot of the shows were too similar.”
Leah Murray, a sophomore journalism major and a director for the Netflix Spectacular, participated in Insomnia Theater’s productions last year when every group was still sharing one singular word for their theme, like “crash” or “light” and putting their own spin on it.
“I was a writer for when they only had the general theme,” said Murray, also the club’s finance director. “There was only so much we could do.”
Murray said individual theme prompts make it easier for students to take their productions in different directions, while still staying under the show’s main umbrella theme.
“You can just go crazy,” Murray said. “And as a writer you don’t really have to worry as much in the writing room if someone is doing the same thing as you.”
The differing theme categories for this year’s Netflix Spectacular resulted in skits with storylines ranging from what happens when an undercover CIA agent finds himself in a women’s prison to how a Canadian transfer student might deal with rude American classmates.
Glatfelter praised the creativity of the writers, along with their casts.
“They took [their themes] in new and different ways than I even expected them to,” Glatfelter said. “I was really happy to see that originality play in.”
Morgan Ash, a senior film and media arts major, served as a writer in the group creating a “Goofy Pubescent Dance Musical.”
“We kind of based it off of the background characters of early 2000s Nickelodeon shows,” Ash said.
The variety of prompts allowed for more diverse performances but left some groups with a more difficult and time-consuming writing and production process.
“I think we had an added challenge, because we had to create a song and put it in our play,” Ash said. “So we were the last group to finish [writing] in the wee hours of the morning.”
“But I think we ended up getting a pretty good song out of our project,” he added.
Insomnia Theater plans on implementing this theme strategy for the rest of their shows throughout the year.
“There was a lot of variety,” Glatfelter said. “I think the audience really appreciated it.”
Jenny Roberts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Video shot by Caroline Vana, edited by Harrison Brink.
*Editors note: Leah Murray was a former freelance writer for The Temple News. She did not contribute reporting to this article.