Despite COVID-19 restrictions, US One Acts bring people together

This year, One Act directors told stories of DMVs, murder, cannibalism, and Greek gods. Considering COVID-19 restrictions, these short plays were no small feat to organize. Different One Acts took on the obstacle of the pandemic differently and creatively, and even if a pandemic wasn’t the director’s vision, they should be proud of the results. Without further ado, here are the 2020-2021 school year One Acts: Superlative Style.

The Funniest: Prometheus, the God(father), directed by Miranda Bance and Michael Moran

This One Act follows the Greek legend of Prometheus: the titan who stole fire from the gods to bring to humans and was punished by being tied up to a rock while an eagle rips out his liver for all of eternity. Except the gods are all Italian-American and operate as a mafia with Zeus at the top, hence the “God(father)” in the title. This One Act was hands down the funniest, whether it be Clea Gaïtas Sur and Max Spencer‘s dramatic Italian accents, the clear references to The Godfather (1972), or the hilariously edited eagle that swoops in at the end to eat Prometheus’s liver. Both Clea Gaïtas Sur, starring as Prometheus, and Max Spencer, who played Zeus, or the God(father), shined in this play with their hilarious dialogue, flawlessly exaggerated Italian accents, and convincing acting. Directors Miranda Bance and Michael Moran did an incredible job directing the play in a pandemic safe way- choosing to film the characters together, often with one wearing mask with their face not visible to the camera. Because the characters were filmed together, they had amazing comedic timing and chemistry that allowed the play to be as funny as it was. You can tell that the cast of Frometheus, the God(father) had fun putting it together, which made it even more fun to watch.

Most Creative: Stew, written and directed by Adrienne Gaylord

Stew, written and directed by senior Adrienne Gaylord, tells the story of the lesbian cannibals, Margaret, played by sophomore Mimi Huelster, and Lydia, played by sophomore Valerie Wick, who kidnap an innocent vegan, Nial, played by junior Sam Zelazo, from a public park and bring him to their Vegan Lesbian Cannibals (VLC) meeting to eat him as a conceptual art piece about animal cruelty. The piece is named after the food that Nial loses his life to- the vegan cannibals cook him into a stew. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I didn’t rate this One Act the most creative; Gaylord’s imagination filled Stew with simultaneous satirical takes on veganism, cannibalism, lesbianism, and conceptual art, topics that even Nicki Minaj would struggle to connect in a freestyle. The three characters, Margaret, Lydia, and Nial, have incredibly different personalities, but Huelster’s dramatic enthusiasm as Margaret, Wick’s deadpan humor as Lydia, and Zelazo’s socially awkward Nial tied the dynamic together amazingly. The One Act was shot similarly to Prometheus, the God(father), with each shot featuring an unmasked character, however, unlike Prometheus, most shots consisted only of one character, which lent itself to some hilariously campy editing. Stew also utilized a lot of B Roll shots- meaning shots of the environment, like the road and van while Lydia is driving, to create suspense, which was incredibly effective for Nial’s building fear as he is brought to his stew-y death. Simultaneously funny and scary, Gaylord’s Stew is a satirical masterpiece.


Best Acting: Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, directed by Gavin Kimmel

Five Women Wearing the Same Dress follows (as the title indicates) five women who are bridesmaids hiding from the wedding reception in an upstairs room. All of the women have shaky relationships with a bride, continually insulting her. As they spend time together upstairs, they learn more about each other’s relationships with the people downstairs at the wedding reception.  Director Gavin Kimmel took on a huge challenge, making a play about such hard hitting topics as sexual assault, relationships between people, and trauma, while having to adhere to staying 6 feet apart. Unlike Stew and Prometheus, Five Women Wearing the Same Dress was filmed completely separately: each of the five actors filmed their lines in their own bedrooms, and the play was edited together so that the bedrooms essentially merged in the viewers mind into the same upstairs bedroom that they laughed and cried in throughout the play. Because the actors weren’t together at all while filming, the acting stood out in an amazing way; for less skilled actors, this play would’ve come off as unconvincing and clunky, but sophomores Maggie Fried, Parisa Ghavami, and Ruby Fields, and seniors Isobel Alm and Grace Krasney made this filming style beautiful and effective. All the actors displayed amazing acting skills, but Maggie Fried, playing Meredith, shined through, giving an incredibly heart wrenching performance and nuance to her character’s experience with trauma. The creative editing, and amazing acting set Five Women Wearing the Same Dress apart from the other One Acts.


James Agnes, played by junior Ellie Murphy, yells at The Tyrant (junior Per Johnson) while trying to get his license at the DMV (Screenshot from One Act)

Best Dialogue: DMV Tyrant, directed by Maren Ostrem and Evelyn Lillemoe

Directed by seniors Evelyn Lillemoe and Maren Ostrem, DMV Tyrant is reminiscent of cheeky satirical sitcoms like The Office and Parks and Recreation, featuring Ellie Murphy as James Agnes, who has a problem with his drivers license and Per Johnson as The Tyrant a.k.a. the DMV worker who is frustratingly unhelping and bureaucratic. Taking a small slice of life that many have experienced and squeezing the humor out of it, DMV Tyrant uses dialogue to epitomize the absurdity of the situation. The frustratingly too-relatable back and forths between James Agnes and the DMV worker are hilarious in their satire, and Murphy and Johnson’s comedic timing is impeccable. The directors choose to film the whole play over Zoom, with each actor’s background representing what one would see behind them: James Agnes with the crowded DMV behind him, and the Tyrant with cubiles behind him. Due to this choice, following dialogue is completely different from the other one acts, because you can simultaneously see both character’s expressions and reactions, which makes the play feel very real, making up for the awkwardness of acting online. DMV Tyrant is short and sweet, making you grateful to be where you are, and not in a DMV.


Grandma, played by senior Rylan Hefner, accepts the end of her life as she talks to the Angel of Death, played by junior Gray Witacker-Castaneda. (Screenshot from One Act)

Best Concept: The Sandbox, directed by Eric Severson

The Sandbox offers a unique look at death, following Mommy, played by junior Jay Jones, and Daddy, played by senior Nathan Forsberg, who take the 87 year old Grandma, played by senior Rylan Hefner, to a sandbox to die. This One Act wasn’t as achingly satirical as Stew, but using a sandbox to illustrate feelings at the end of ones life was certainly an interesting take, earning it the best concept title. The Sandbox Director and US Theater director, Mr. Severson, took the approach to COVID-19 restrictions in a completely different direction: filming the each of the characters individually with one shot for the whole play. Then the shots were edited together on a black screen, floating around and interacting that way. Considering the shots were all individual and only one shot, it’s a testament to the skill of the actors and director that the timing worked perfectly, creating an interesting family dynamic around the sandbox. Rylan Hefner‘s performance as Grandma stands out in this one act, it’s at once hilarious as they throw sand at Mommy and Daddy, and achingly honest as they accept death in a conversation with the Angel of Death, played by junior Gray Witaker-Castaneda. This performance gave Five Women Wearing the Same Dress a run for the Best Acting, and pulled The Sandbox together. The Sandbox is conceptually strong, and makes you think about what role death plays in your own life.


Maddie, played by junior Sevy Hayes, complains to Alex (junior Sal Burkhardt) and Charlie (sophomore Morgan Riley) over Zoom call (Screenshot from One Act)

Best Plot Twist: Second Best written by Anja Trierweiler and directed by Adeline DeHarpporte and Anja Trierweiler

Written by Anja Trierweiler, Second Best deals with topics of friendship as a group of friends meet over Zoom. Maddie, played by junior Sevy Hayes, Alex, played by junior Sal Burkhardt, and Charlie, sophomore Morgan Riley, wait on a call for their friend Brittany, played by junior Alice Duncan, who Maddie is fiercely jealous of for getting better grades and being more well liked by teachers and continues to insult and complain about on the call. The plot twist comes when, fed up with Maddie’s antics, Alex and Charlie leave, and finally Brittany joins, driving Maddie into such a fury that she hangs up the Zoom call, and viewers see her coming up behind Brittany on the call and stabbing her. This One Act is actually the only one this year to acknowledge the Zoom call format, and actually use it as a plot device. This makes Maddie coming up behind Brittany even more surprising, as it breaks the conceived notion that all the characters will stay in their own space on the call. By playing with the idea of space and quarantine creatively, directors Adeline DeHarpporte and Anja Trierweiler take this play to another level.