Students take the lead in bringing one act plays to life


Noah Molenda, Staff Writer

Whether you’re in the mood for comedy or drama, there’s something for everyone at this year’s One Act Festival production.

“The one act festival is an annual production that is put on by my Theatre Production class,” Theatre Director Thomas Mackey said. “They work the entire trimester, doing all the work that goes into these plays, and they put on a public performance of all the work they’ve been doing. They get to pick the shows, they design them, rehearse them, direct them, and then perform them in front of a public audience.

This year, the students are performing two shows, each 30 minutes long. The first show is called Hotline, which involves a call center for people to use as a way to get things off their chest, and swearing and foul language are encouraged. The caller in the play particularly refuses to use any foul language, creating the comedic sense of the show.

“It’s a hilarious conversation between an operator and this housewife,” Mackey said. “The operator is trying to get the housewife to just swear, and the housewife, through her propriety, absolutely refuses to do it. 

“The second show is called Boiling People in My Coffee. It’s about a couple who recently lost their son. The parents are imagining that they see micro-people in their coffee and in their books as sort of a coping mechanism to deal with the loss of their son.”

Many factors ran through the students’ minds when deciding on these shows.

“Number 1, we have to fit them within a time frame,” Mackey said. “They have to be a one act play, they have to be school appropriate, and they have to be performed and designed by the students we have in class, so it can’t be too large of a cast or have too many fantastical design elements to them since we’re on a tight schedule. We only have one hour a day to work on these plays, so everything has to get done within the class periods.”

Unlike your typical school theatre performance, Mr. Mackey takes a step back and lets the students take the lead.

“It’s done entirely within class, so every single job is done by students,” Mackey said. “I don’t direct or design or do any of the work on the show, but I serve more as a mentor to help students make the best decisions they possibly can.”

Senior Lauren Molenda enjoys the new experiences she’s had through this class and production.

“A lot of the stuff I’ve done in theatre has been extracurricular – I’ve only taken a couple classes – so being able to actually do this in the classroom has been a really cool experience for me,” she said. “I feel like it’s been really eye-opening for me, and even though I’m at the end of my senior year, I’m still learning things and still growing and still discovering what I’m capable of as a performer and also as a technician.”

Molenda, who has been heavily involved in acting throughout the years, is taking on a new role this year as the makeup and costume designer for the show, Hotline.

“I’ve basically been coming up with the whole design element for all of the clothing pieces and the physical portions of these characters and what their clothes, facial expressions, and how they look say about them,” Molenda said. “It’s been a good process going through that; Just really diving into the script, analyzing all the characters, and having to symbolize who they are as people through their physical appearance has been really cool and fun for me. 

“I’m not an artist, I would never say that, I can barely draw a stick figure, but I’ve done costume sketches, made acquisitions lists, and just a lot of cool stuff that I didn’t really know went into all this.”

For the second show, Molenda met unfamiliar challenges that she had to overcome.

“I’m playing the character Dorian,” Molenda said. “Even though it’s my senior year, I’m still learning new things, and honestly this show has been quite challenging for me. A lot of the time with line memorization it just comes to me naturally from doing it over, and over, and over every day. “When you do a full length play, you’re rehearsing four hours every single day after school, so the lines just come to you, and it’s eventually like second nature; but this we only have 12 weeks, one hour everyday, that’s basically around 48 hours. We had like two days to put on this whole show, so one thing I’ve really struggled with is line memorization.”

Boiling People in My Coffee is particularly an emotion full play, especially Molenda’s character.

“The character I’m playing, she is going through a lot with her family, and it’s reflected in her actions and her mental state,” Molenda said.

“It’s honestly been pretty challenging for me trying to portray her because she doesn’t react to situations naturally; she’s kind of losing it a little bit, so having to portray that and show not that she’s just crazy and out of her mind, but that there’s a reason behind it, has been kind of difficult. I’m working on it, and my peers along with Mr. Mackey have been really helpful, so I’m excited to take on the challenge and grateful to have the opportunity.”

In order to accomplish so many tasks in so little time, the students have stuck to a strict schedule of rehearsing, building, and communicating with each other.

“The fate of the show is totally in our hands,” Molenda said. “I’ve just really learned to take responsibility by knowing that the show is literally up to us, and we have to work together to get it done.”

A responsibility like this is unusual for most high school students, but is a great experience to have.

“It builds teamwork, communication, and they have to use their critical thinking skills to solve a bunch of these problems that are presented by these groups,” Mackey said. “They have to think creatively as to how to develop these proper solutions, and they also have to think abstractly, because it’s not just about achieving goal A, goal B, goal C, but also interpreting the script in such a way and communicating these different symbols, metaphors, and messages to the audience as well.”

Theatre classes present students with a variety of knowledge, involving almost any subject you could think of. 

“In math you learn math, in history you learn history, in science you learn science, but in theatre you learn everything, from english language to physics,” Mackey said. “You learn the things that can’t really be tested, but things that are critical skills that employers are looking for, schools are looking for, to develop that critical thinking. You’re not going to get that fully rounded education anywhere but in a theatre classroom.”

“Name a subject, and I could tell you how it applies to theatre,” Molenda said. “English and writing, look at all the scripts and play analysis and character analysis that we do. The technician stuff, think about all the math that goes into that. Designing all the stuff, costumes, measurements, etc.”

Students and faculty are heavily encouraged to come out and support the Theatre Production class by seeing the play.

“It’s always good to show support for students who are working hard, who are dedicated, who are intelligent, who are creative, who represent the school well,” Mackey said. “Showing support to those students who are learning how to think outside the box, who are learning how to be empathetic community members, and are very well rounded students, is always super important for their morale and to show that what they are doing is worth their time.”