Thespians Prepare for Winter One Acts Festival

After another successful fall theater season, GDS students are preparing for a series of short plays known as the Winter One Acts Festival. With auditions occurring in early December, the rehearsal period spans throughout the end of first semester and the beginning of the second with the final productions in January. Every year, the show features a series of plays directed by seniors and two faculty members. This year’s directors are seniors Cole Wright-Schaner, Sophie Warshauer, Nick Moen, Will Foster, Kirsten Moyer and Alex Carnot along with acting teacher Jim Mahady and science teacher Bill George.

Approximately twenty students audition for all of the directors, who then determine the casting for each act. Genres range from comedic to dramatic, and choosing the play is left up to the director. The technical elements of the show such as lighting, set design, and props, will largely be under the direction of students and under the guidance of technical director Christal Boyd.

Senior Cole Wright-Schaner chose Business Lunch at the Russian Tea Room, written by Christopher Durang. He said he wanted something with a large cast and comedic elements.

“I wanted to go with an author I knew and trusted,” said Wright-Schaner. “I thought this one would be the best fit because I would be able to work with lots of different people.”

Having previously only acted in the One Acts, Wright-Schaner, like the other student directors, is filling in a new role as director.

“There’s a lot more responsibility, but I’m excited about the challenge,” Wright-Schaner said.

As a director, Wright-Schaner said he plans to have his cast read the script several times in order for them to fully understand the arc of the act. He also plans to research more of Durang’s writing with his stage managers, sophomore Alma Haft and senior Caroline Katzive, to get a better sense of what the author’s creative influences were.

“As a director, I believe it’s just as important to know the context as well as the content,” Wright-Schaner said.

Durang is a popular choice for the One Acts alongside David Ives, who has written five of the nine acts in the show. Ives is popular among GDS students for his comedic writing. The fact that seven of the nine plays come from two writers sets this season apart from others years where there has been more diversity in writers.

Another senior director Sophie Warshauer is doing one of the only dramatic acts in the show. She was first exposed to her One Act, called Night Swim, by Julia Jordan, at a summer program.

“I wanted to choose a One Act I knew I could make really strong informed choices for as a director, and help the actors make those same choices,” Warshauer said.

In the past, GDS students have trended towards the comedic (and occasionally the absurd) in their acts, but Warshauer was set on doing a more serious play. Warshauer said she wants to use new skills that she’s learned as part of her directorial process. Techniques such as inserting claps to indicate switches in emotion in rehearsal, or doing a moment-before exercise are ones that Warshauer has practiced as an actor, and wants to try with her cast-members.

“I feel like I’ve learned a lot throughout junior year and the summer, so I feel like I have a lot of tools at my disposal,” Warshauer said.

Acting teacher Jim Mahady oversees the One Acts and is directing one as well. As an acting teacher, he plans to operate like he would in an acting class. He said he is choosing to do a comedic piece this year.

“It’s a matter of working on comic timing with the actors and helping them figure out how to time the comedy,” Mahady said. “The material is really important, but it’s also about the timing.”

Mahady said he wants his actors to learn their lines as soon as possible so that they can start to focus on the characters they are portraying. Another focus for Mahady is trying to determine the appropriateness of the content. While he wants to include audience members of all ages, student directors often like to pick acts that feature a lot of swear words or general inappropriate content.

“It’s been a real problem in the past,” Mahady said.

However, some students have censored the swear words from their acts in an effort to make the show more appropriate for younger audiences.

So, whether you like comedy, drama, or something in the middle, the One Acts will have it. The One Acts are a great example of student leadership in the arts and have something to offer for everyone.

By: Lucy Walker ’19