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Students test their talents in One Act Festival

Photo by Megan Pachner
One Act - Megan Pachner
Photo by Megan Pachner

Last weekend on Dec. 6 and 7, Grinnell’s One Act Festival took place in Roberts Theatre. Six different short plays directed by six different students were performed onstage. The plays featured a diverse range of genres and ideas.

The festival opened with the play “Crumble (Lay Me Down Justin Timberlake)” directed by Emma Sinai-Yunker ’15. The play told the story of a mother (Ebony Chuukwu ’16) who tries to repair her relationship with her daughter (Deborah Msekela ’17), who went through a series of struggles after the death of her father. She and Justin Timberlake (Alex Hsieh ’14) try to help her teenage daughter and stop their apartment from crumbling.

Matthew Terry ’15 directed the play “A Pair and a Spare,” which featured Jessica Daly ’18 and Sandy Barnard ’17. The play tells a story of two characters who struggle to recognize each other despite a number of incidents that draw them together over and over. Daly said that the play speaks to the nature of communication in a digital era.

“I hate to give a cliché answer, because I think technology is really great. But I also think that technology can hinder our ability to connect with people,” Daly wrote in an email to The S&B. “I don’t think you need to be friends with everybody who rides the elevator with you, but I do think you should notice people. ‘A Pair and a Spare’ is about noticing other people. I hope the audience came out of the show and took notice of the people around them. It would be great if our show could help people connect more.”

After a number of intense plays, the audience had the relief of watching the play “La Mouche,” directed by Michael Kelley ’16. In the play, a fly lands in the soup in front of a customer (Aaron Lapkin ’15) and two waiters (Saw Min Maw ’16 and Maisie Dolan ’16) try to fix the problem. It was a light comedy and drew a lot of laughter from the audience. 

“Maisie and Saw Min Maw are two very bright and creative people; it was inspiring to watch them develop their characters through improvisation,” Lapkin wrote in an email to The S&B.

Kelley said that although the play was his first chance to direct, it was an overwhelmingly positive experience.

“Through the combination of my stellar cast, upbeat play choice and the support of my directing peers, I’d say the role was actually pretty fun and easy to pick up,” Kelley said. “I got to make some decisions, and that was a new stretch for my creativity. The thing I liked most was having a talented cast that was willing to laugh and play with me. It felt less like I was telling them what to do, rather, I felt like I was helping create something with them.”

The next play in the festival was “Variations on the Death of Trotsky,” directed by Chris Jones ’16. Doug Dale ’15, Clara Bertaut ’18 and Gregory Garcia ’17 performed a number of ways Trotsky might have died, through a series of rapid-fire jokes and punch lines.

“I really hope the audience just had fun watching the show,” Dale wrote in an email to The S&B. “One of the great things about the festival is that it’s a big reset button. If you love the show you’re watching, great! If not, there’s something totally new in 10 minutes. ‘Trotsky’ was in that same spirit but at 10 times the speed. I hope they had as much fun switching genres and characters as much as I did.”

The festival closed with a play directed by Sophiyaa Nayar ’17, “3:59 AM.” The play told the dynamic story of two characters, Hector (Justin Leuba ’18) and Laz (Ezra Edgerton ’16), as they went through a roller coaster of emotions and used words to create, race and nearly destroy their “old-school-like-Jesus” cars. In the process they explored ideas about death, abandonment and self-worth.

“It was absolutely thrilling!” Nayar wrote in an email to The S&B about her first directing experience. “Watching my actors grow and create their world was beautiful.”

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