To Sam Hafetz ’23, playwriting in the time of quarantine is more than just putting pen to paper; it’s about trying to express a collective sense of stagnation and apathy. Now, in his newest directoral endeavor, Hafetz is attempting to tackle a new dramatic medium to explore these motifs: a spoken epic poem.
The poem, titled The Party’s Over, runs approximately 55 minutes long and is debuting May 10 at 12:00 p.m EST. Its plot centers around a group of four college-aged teenagers who make a deal with a ghost. The caveat? If they don’t achieve a great purpose in life, they cede rule over humanity to the ghost and its kind.
Hafetz believes the classification of this work as an epic poem, rather than a play, affords him the opportunity to experiment with more unconventional modes of storytelling. In the poem, Hafetz bends time, incorporates the supernatural and features long and formal speeches.
One of his goals is for the work to serve as ambience; he imagines a group of friends, relaxing and fraternizing, being able to turn the poem on in the background and having it play along as they chat.
Although only a first year, Hafetz’s writing and directorial background is extensive: He directed six plays — four of which were full-length— at his high school, St. Ann’s School in Brooklyn, N.Y. Since arriving to Kenyon in the fall, Hafetz has spearheaded a variety of dramatic endeavors, writing and performing a play each week on his WKCO radio show, and was preparing to put on a full-length show at the Horn Gallery in April.
At the beginning of quarantine, Hafetz was writing a play every day, recruiting his friends to perform in them over Zoom, posting them on his Soundcloud account and promoting them on Instagram. The plays included a wide array of stories, ranging from a group of clowns in a breakroom to a detective investigating the murder of a high-profile rockstar. However, citing concerns of burnout, Hafetz halted this project.
“ I stopped doing [them] because I wasn’t really absorbing my feelings,” Hafetz said. “When I was writing a play a day … I basically had to just start writing and couldn’t delete anything because I’d have such a strict deadline.”
Now, with the conception of The Party’s Over, Hafetz is focusing his creative energy on a single project. As his work on the poem has progressed, he has found himself trying to explore more and more on one major theme: purpose.
“There’s this question I’m really poking at, which is—if we’re all dead, then we’re kind of all alive. I would say that’s the question of the [work],” Hafetz said. “In a lot of ways we barely feel alive right now. And so that’s what I was kind of thinking. Like if [quarantine] is a collective experience, then we’re all living.”
Hafetz also notes that at the core of this work is the feeling that during quarantine, the collective “we” spend more time—and enjoy—reminiscing more than living in the present.
As the opening day of the poem draws closer, Hafetz still feels the urge and inspiration to keep writing.
“I’m just like ‘I can’t stop writing amidst this time, because if we stop, people are still feeling,” Hafetz said. “You can only stop writing when people stop feeling.”