September 24, 2016

Going through “The Grind”

Romance has undergone a makeover and now has a new face-the face of a phone. Twenty-seven percent of 18-24 year olds use dating sites or apps, according to the Pew Research Center. Webster University junior Max Friedman had this in mind when writing the script for his play “The Grind.” “The Grind,” was featured in the BRIEFS Festival, a festival of short LGBTQ plays, April 8-10.

“Face to face interaction, meeting strangers, doesn’t really happen anymore,” Friedman said. “We don’t have that romantic 1940s love story.”

In “The Grind,” two characters, Michael and Chris, meet after connecting on a dating app. Soon they discover that their intentions for the meeting were very different and they discuss how they got different impressions from the same app.

Friedman said the inspiration for the play came from the process of trying to date in today’s world and the confusing nature of dating apps.

“We’re very scared to go up to people and start talking to them so we do it through our phones, which makes it easier,” Friedman said. “But does it really make it easier?”

Friedman said the app’s intentions are to be used as a way of making meaningful connections but he is not so sure the process works.

Director Gad Guterman (left) and writer Max Friedman watch a run-through of "The Grind," which was featured in the BRIEFS Festival. RANDI HAMMOR / The Journal

Director Gad Guterman (left) and writer Max Friedman watch a run-through of “The Grind,” which was featured in the BRIEFS Festival. RANDI HAMMOR / The Journal

“Are [people] just going through this grind, this process of trying but not finding success,” Friedman said. “It’s something I question all the time.”

Friedman submitted his play for the festival after having a playwriting class with Webster professor Michael Erickson last year. Erickson encouraged Friedman to enter his play.

This was the second year the festival celebrated a student writer with the Ken Haller Playwriting Competition. The competition is designed to encourage LGBTQ youth to submit their plays. Friedman was this year’s winner of the competition and was awarded $250 and honored on opening night of the festival.

Conservatory of Theatre Arts assistant professor Gad Guterman is the director for “The Grind” and one of the people who has read the festival script submissions for the past three years.

“I love that this festival reflects the changing notion of what it is to be gay,” Guterman said. “In essence, [Michael and Chris’] struggle is not about their being gay, which is traditionally what gay plays have been about.”

BRIEFS is also one of the only festivals in the nation to feature short, LGBTQ plays. The festival featured eight different plays picked from over 250 submissions.

Webster junior Jared Campbell, who plays Michael in “The Grind,” said the BRIEFS Festival is important now more than ever.

“LGBTQ people’s rights are at stake and continue to be at threat of being taken away,” Campbell said. “I just hope that people who come see the BRIEFS Festival realize that LGBTQ stories are just as important to be presented on stage… and aren’t told enough.”

The festival, created by Webster alum Joan Lipkin, is in its fifth year. Soon, the festival will start looking for scripts for next year. Guterman said that the festival is open to scripts from all over the world and encourages students to submit theirs for the next year.

Both Campbell and Friedman said they really enjoyed the festival weekend, which sold out several of its shows.

“People really seemed to enjoy it,” Campbell said. “Audiences were really responsive.”

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