Three directors, eight actors: Second dates, sticky notes & slaps

The student-directed One-Act Festival attracted a fire-code capacity crowd  for their performances on Saturday, Nov. 12.

A woman debates what food to order for her second date—and what her choice will make her partner think about her. A marriage is explored entirely through the post-it notes they leave for each other over the years. A soon-to-be-married couple runs into their old flames.

At the One-Act Play Festival, held on Nov. 12, the directing class taught by Professor of Theatre Dr. Sally Shedd put on three short, roughly 10-minute plays. The crowd filled every seat in Hofheimer Theatre, including some extra seating brought out for the event. 

Theatre majors Sophia Kaminaris, Tucker Barco and Hannah Carmona were the three students taking the course this semester.

Carmona—who directed “Marred Bliss,” written by Mark O’Donnell—said that this assignment introduced her to directing in a way she hadn’t seen before.

“I didn’t really see myself doing it,” Carmona said. She had previously only directed films, but through the process of directing “Marred Bliss,” she changed her mind.

“I kind of just discovered it’s just really a passion of mine,” Carmona said.

The students, all seniors, had almost complete control over the play. They chose the one-act play they wished to perform, made casting decisions and directed the entire play themselves.

“They’re in charge of all of that, I don’t micromanage it,” Shedd said, referring to the casting process. But that philosophy applied to the whole play. Students were free to make any decision a director would be responsible for, including who to invite to callbacks—a secondary audition date where prospective actors are narrowed down—and how to arrange the set.

Carmona said she enjoyed the artistic control she had over the play, an aspect that came with directing.

The students were required to direct one-act plays, which are different from standard plays in that they occur entirely in one act and scene. That means that the play occurs without a change in setting, and rarely with more than five actors. The most this festival had was four.

Annie O’Shea and sophomore Emma Wehr in “Post-Its (Notes on a
Marriage)” directed by senior and Theatre major Sophia Kaminaris. Carley Tantlinger|Marlin Chronicle

Although one-act plays vary tremendously in runtime, all of them are much shorter than standard plays.

“That’s not a lot of time to develop a character,” Shedd said. She said that the lack of character development can be a problem in a badly written play. However, she also said that the students chose their plays well, and that she believed that they all had some form of character development.

The run time of one-act plays can be a problem in effectively developing characters, but it has its advantages as well.

“There’s some things that a one-act play can do better, or more efficiently, than a long play,” Shedd said. “Because it is so condensed, it really sort of just puts things out there often. It gets to the point a lot sooner.”

One example of that would be the second play, “Post-Its (Notes on a Marriage)” by Paul Dooley, which was directed by Kaminaris. The play explored a marriage, both its highs and lows, solely through the post-it notes they wrote each other over the years. Although it was less than 20 minutes long, its emotional conclusion left several people in the audience in tears.

Another benefit of the length of the one-act plays is that multiple one-acts can be included in a festival.

“It’s nice to go to a one act festival; you’re going to see three different plays,” Shedd said.

Junior Jacob Underwood and sophomore Emily Lutz in “A Tall
Order” directed by senior and Theatre major Tucker Barco. Carley Tantlinger|Marlin Chronicle

The variety was distinct. “Post-Its” was a tear-jerking, emotionally touching story about a relationship told in an unconventional manner.

“A Tall Order” by Sheri Wilner, directed by Barco, was a funny but thoughtful and insightful story about decisions made both at the dining table and in a relationship. It ended with a touching resolution that the character came to after much thought, and a food order.

“Marred Bliss” made extensive use of malapropisms—substitutions of words with different words that sound similar but mean something completely different—in its discussion of communication and relationships. This was used to introduce a separate meaning to the sentence, such as the replacement of the word “married” with the word “marred,” as in the title.

All three of the plays had very different moods, but they were all impactful and memorable in their own way. That kind of variety is something that is not easily possible with a standard length, two-act play.

“It’s just kind of nice to mix it up,” Shedd said.

By Victoria Haneline