Evening of one-acts offers something for everyone
February 7, 2020
The Winter One-Acts are a way for students to participate in short, skit-like plays consisting of, as the name would imply, one act. This year’s productions performed in the Huss Center Jan. 31 at 7 p.m.
The competition one-act was directed by US Theater Director Eric Severson.
Aliens vs. Cheerleaders, directed by Severson, is a comedy act about a high school that is invaded by aliens who abduct students in an attempt to begin to conquer Earth. However, their plan is foiled when a seemingly average group of normal cheerleaders turns out to be a not-so-average group of alien-fighting warriors. Students get pushed around, abducted and even brainwashed by the aliens, but the cheerleading squad is having none of it.
“I learned how to do stage combat, also how to learn all of the material within a very short amount of time,” junior Grace Krasny said. “It’s a chance to do theater that’s a little more low-key than the play or musical.” Krasny plays Tina Carpenter, the head cheerleader who leads the rest of the squad through all the battles with the aliens.
The remaining one-acts were directed by seniors, under the guidance and mentorship of Severson.
Senior Quinn Christensen directed Swing of the Sea, which is about two seventh graders, Boots and Eggs, trying to process their friend Peter’s suicide. Boots is trying to remember the last thing Peter said to her, but struggles with this. Boots and Eggs imagine all the different scenarios that could have been what Peter said to them, while also trying to deal with the aftermath.
Christensen said, “It’s very magical realism-y and whimsical, but at the same time it obviously tackles a really serious issue. I fell in love with the script when I saw another school perform it at the one-act competition last year – it handles a really heavy topic in a way that feels thoughtful and true to the ages of the characters.”
Kingdom of the Spider is directed by seniors Peter Michel and Ryan Strobel. Kingdom of the Spider is about Bob, a stay-at-home dad trying to push aside all his problems, such as leaks in his house and a pest problem. One day, a black widow spider shows up on his front porch and tells him to deal with his problems instead of pushing them away. A Mormon girl joins the questioning, and Bob gets so fed up he kills the spider.
O, What a Tangled Web, directed by seniors Nina Smetana and Martha Slaven, is about Jan, short for Janathan, and his lie that spirals out of control. What was meant to be calling in sick for his sister Chris when she was actually planning to go out with her girlfriend turned into accidentally announcing the death of his perfectly alive sibling. Mourners come with cake and flowers, and it all caves in on Jan when everyone realizes they aren’t on the same page.
Finally, seniors Henry Cheney and Henry Vlietstra directed Guillotine, which is about guillotine sales. A short interaction between a salesman and a customer, a broken up phone call and a warning that is never given all lead to the death of a maid who just wanted to clean things.
The Winter One-Acts are a way students can connect in a shared interest and express their own interest in acting and directing. Sophomore Ellie Dawson-Moore, who plays one of the aliens in Aliens vs. Cheerleaders, said “There is so much more work going into even the smallest details of a one-act. Each makeup look has been constructed and scrutinized by me and [Severson] down to the smallest detail. The choreography, while fun, is a workout and I have a lot of respect for everyone doing it with me.”
The competition one-act performed the week before the show and took third place at sections.
Senior directors enjoy creative freedom of one-acts
From directing to experimenting with having three additional characters, the annual one-acts that happened last Friday were full of new experiences for students who directed them.
Senior Henry Cheney co-directed a one-act called “Guillotine” by Steve Martin with senior Henry Vlietstra. This was his first year participating in the One Acts. Despite it being his first time, Cheney said the experience was easier than he had anticipated.
“I felt like a camp counselor. I was happy that my actors listened to me,” Cheney said.
Senior Martha Slaven also directed a one-act for the first time this year. She and senior Nina Smetana co-directed a one-act called “O, What a Tangled Web” by John A. Carroll. While most of the One Acts had casts that were three to four characters, Slaven and Smetana had a cast of eleven students.
“It was crazy having a large group of people that I’m responsible for and having to organize all of that. That was really weird, but it was fun,” Slaven said.
Senior Peter Michel directed a one-act called “Kingdom Of the Spider” by Nick Zagone with senior Ryan Strobel. This was his second year participating in the one-acts, but his first time directing. Unlike Cheney, Michel found directing a bit more challenging.
“As someone who has done the one-acts before as an actor, not a director, it was different. It made me respect the profession of directing more because there’s a lot of work involved,” Michel said.
Regardless of the differences in their experiences, Cheney, Slaven, and Michel were happy with the outcomes of their acts, partially because of the creative freedom they were given as directors. One-acts allow for well-known scripts to be reinvented, an exciting prospect for the directors.
“Our script was relatively short, so we had a lot of creative freedom,” Cheney said, “We chose to significantly extend the maid’s part for comedic purposes. We made the scene about five minutes longer than it was in the script.”
The directors worked with US Theater Director Eric Severson to produce their shows.