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Student-directed one acts to be performed on campus and in town

Students rehearse for the one acts, directed by students in professor Sandy Moffett’s Dramatic Directing class. Photo by Emma Mills.
Students rehearse for the one acts, directed by students in professor Sandy Moffett’s Dramatic Directing class. Photo by Emma Mills.

The Grinnell theater department will perform five one-act plays this weekend. The plays are a culmination of a semester’s work by five students in professor Sandy Moffett’s dramatic directing class. In the span of only four weeks they have selected, rehearsed and are ready to present their individual productions.

“The way you learn to direct is by directing,” said Moffett. “About four weeks ago they chose a one-act play they would like to do, and they’ve been working on it ever since.”
According to Moffett, one-act plays have been a staple of Grinnell’s theater department since before his arrival on campus in 1971.

“They’ve changed a little bit, they’re a little bit more formal, a little bit more produced,” he said.
Unlike other theater productions throughout the school year, such as the faculty directed main-stage shows, the one-act plays are entirely directed and performed by students. According to Moffett, his involvement with each show has been minimal, which allows his students to create their own, original solutions to the challenges they face.

Caulden Parkel ’22, one of Moffett’s students, will be directing a show this weekend titled “The Music Cure,” written by George Bernard Shaw. A comedy that leans heavily on its physical elements, it also requires two of its actors to be highly trained piano players.

“It’s been a lot but is probably one of the most rewarding things I’ve done this semester,” said Parkel. “You get done at the end of the day, it’s been a two-hour rehearsal block and you have all this other stuff to do, but you’re happy about it because that’s the way it is.”

Actor Lucy Polyak ’23, who is performing in the show of Lizzy Hinman ’20, described the variety of stories told in the five one-acts. In addition to Parkel’s piano-fueled comedy, other shows focus on first dates, theater tropes, marital problems told through the medium of sock puppets. Hinman’s show centers on a trio of sisters visiting their ailing father.

In addition to on-campus performances, each play will also be performed in The Loft, a theater space at the Grinnell Arts Center.

“I wanted to give them and their cast some experience performing and setting up in different spaces,” said Moffet. “And I kind of wanted to let the students know what goes on down there … and let townspeople know what goes on here.”

While a great opportunity for cast and crew to showcase their work outside of the “college bubble,” the short-notice change from one venue to another will not be easy.

“It’s good that we’re out in the community,” said Parkel. “It’s definitely an interesting challenge, because it’s going to be a really quick turnaround rehearsal-wise and getting into that space less than 24 hours after we’ve been in a different space.”

The one-acts will be a chance for students to see budding directors and actors at work. Unlike the directors, all students of Moffett’s class, the actors come from no set background.

“I’d say there’s a huge range, there are people who this is their first show… and other people who have more experience,” said Polyak.

Saturday’s performance will take place in the Wall theatre in Bucksbaum, while Sunday’s will be held off-campus at the Grinnell Arts Center. Both shows start at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are free. Tickets are available at the box office in Bucksbaum.

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