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Student directed One Act Play Festival opens tonight

Photo by Helena Gruensteidl
Photo by Helena Gruensteidl
Photo by Helena Gruensteidl

Zane Silk

After months of studying direction, planning auditions, selecting plays and holding rehearsals, this semester’s directing class will showcase their work at the One Act Play Festival this Friday and Saturday. The festival will include five works directed by Luis Rojas ’18, Ben Charette ’17, Lauren Fenton ’17, John Kim ’18 and Ayo Bowman ’18.

The directing process began for each student with a search for the perfect play. For Ben Charrette ’17, finding the work that spoke to them was tough.

“I sat down with several books of one acts and couldn’t really find anything. … So I went online and started looking up different playwrights and dug through archives of plays, and there were a couple where I mentally bookmarked them as one of the possibilities. And then as soon as I got to ‘Heart in the Ground,’ I stopped dead in my tracks, and said this is the one. There’s this real raw emotional honesty in it.”

Set in the Midwest during the 1920s, Charette’s play tells the story of a husband and wife who are devastated by the death of their infant and must try to rebuild. Several other directors also opted for more relationship-focused pieces; Fenton’s play, “Post Its (Notes on a Marriage)” explores a relationship over time through the post it notes shared between the pair. And “Guys” directed by Kim, is a buddy comedy that explores friendship.

From the start, Rojas limited his search to Latin American theatre, because he felt their bold, political messages are too often overlooked. Rojas read 26 scripts until he stumbled upon “March,” a play inspired by Argentina’s “Dirty War,” the military dictatorship’s ruthless campaign against dissidents that left over 10,000 missing. “March” features the characters One, Two and Three, who tell their stories as they are marched off to their deaths, only for the actors to return as new characters — Four, Five and Six — in a cycle that repeats.

“I like that there are no names in it,” Rojas said. “It shows the way these people were stripped of their own identity, stripped of their voice, stripped of their name, … especially when it’s your government doing it to you — I think it’s very important to think about that in this political climate and also on this campus.”

Bowman, on the other hand, turned to more a more alternative work, in order to provide a meaningful experience for his audience. Bowman directs “The Actor’s Nightmare,” which features actors siting amongst the audience and follows the character of George who is backstage and must perform a play with no preparation.

“It’s very much a play that people who are invested in theatre will enjoy, … but everyone’s been on the spot … everyone’s had that feeling of, ‘I don’t know what’s going on,’” he said.

After taking special care to choose their perfect piece, the next challenge for this semester’s directors was casting their shows and finding the best way to translate their vision to the stage.

“This is the first play I’ve directed, but I’ve been in a couple dozen, … and I’ve seen enough directors trying to get this one particular thing out of an actor who’s just not understanding,” Bowman said. “I came in with the knowledge that this is not going to be what I’m imagining in my head, that doesn’t really exist.”

For some, it was the logistical aspects that were most challenging. Bowman said it was difficult to find times that worked for all five of his actors, while Charette talked about struggling to juggle the many responsibilities, especially those usually handled by stage managers. Now rehearsals are nearly over and each production’s different pieces are coming together.

“A director who feels entirely confident at this point is a foolish one … there’s always something to stress about,” Charette said, who added that that unlike actors who have the stage, directors lack an outlet for the nervous energy that builds as the performance nears. “You have to channel that into your performers beforehand, and once the actual performances comes about there’s nothing you can do but watch.”

The One Act Plays showcase will be performed on December 2nd and 3rd at 7 p.m. in The Wall in the Bucksbaum Center for Arts. Patrons will be seated on a first-come first-serve basis, and no tickets are required to attend.

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