One Acts Return, Directed and Led by Students

Students perform in A Day in Falsettoland. Photo by Lucas Sullivan.

The Winter One Acts Festival returned to GDS live and in person on Jan. 28. Barring last year’s performances over Zoom, it was the first time the single-scene plays were entirely student-led. 

In recent years, managing and directing the One Acts has been a joint effort by GDS faculty members and students. Former acting teacher Jim Mahady ran the program until his departure in 2020, according to performing arts teacher Laura Rosberg. Rather than replace Mahady in that capacity, Rosberg expanded the existing role of student production coordinator to include managing auditions and meetings, scheduling shows and overseeing the production process.

When Rosberg started the One Acts 40 years ago, before Mahady’s arrival, she made an effort to emphasize student leadership. Faculty members could direct, but students were more involved on the administrative front than in later years. “I’m trying to get back to that earlier model of more student management,” Rosberg said. This year, all eight plays were student-directed.

Junior Jaia Wilensky, this year’s student production coordinator, said the new format wasn’t perfect—when a stage manager dropped out, she had to fill the role herself. “But that’s what makes it so important,” she said of her responsibility. “Students learn how to be professional and collaborate with each other.” 

Rosberg described the festival as a great chance for students who haven’t acted before to get involved in theater. For those who have more experience, she added, it provides a unique opportunity to direct. 

One newcomer was senior Bruno Sullivan, who made his GDS theater debut with a leading role in the play Post-Its (Notes on a Marriage). Sullivan said that, despite being inexperienced, he did not want to graduate with the regret of having never tried his hand at theater. He also said, as did Rosberg and Wilensky, that the brevity of the One Acts is advantageous for beginners: Someone like him, who has limited acting experience, can be the star of a show without the time commitment that comes with a one- or two-hour production. 

(Junior Ethan Wolin, the Bit’s editor-in-chief, and sophomore Avram Shapiro, the culture editor, performed in the One Acts and were not involved in the editing of this article.)

Of the eight shows, only one was student-written. Senior Leila Jackson wrote and directed Violets, the story of a budding friendship between two schoolgirls. Having never been involved in the One Acts, Jackson described her role as a first-time student director as an eye-opening experience. 

Directing a play is not a short or easy process, according to Jackson. She spent multiple weeks guiding the actors in Violets “to a place where they know their characters inside and out.” In turn, they helped her carry out her vision for the scene. 

Despite the heavy workload, Jackson said that participating in the One Acts was ultimately a fulfilling experience and one that she would recommend to students looking to get involved in theater.

Junior attendees Lucy Mezey and Nande Bond were impressed by the festival. “It made me want to write a One Act, that’s for sure,” Mezey said. “Izzy and Bruno’s made me cry,” Bond said of Post-Its (Notes On a Marriage). 

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