One Act Plays help students create memorable experiences

Hannah Bartman

Next Wednesday, Feb. 11 marks the 26th-annual One Act Play Contest, a Whitman tradition that aims to introduce students to theater production and further promote the endurance of the arts. According to tradition, three plays will be performed, all of them written, directed, acted, designed and managed by students.

“We stress process over product so it’s learning to work together, and a lot of the people [participating in the One Acts] have never done their job before,” said Production Manager sophomore Alex Lewis.

One such of these new comers to the theatre is junior Tino Mori, who wrote the play “Ground Nut Stew,” a comedy that his friend described as “a mix between ‘Waiting for Godot’ and Agatha Christi.” This is the first script that Mori has ever written, and he found that the One Acts allowed for an effective learning curve.

“I’ve always had a bias, like [thinking that] the writer has a huge impact, but really there’s a lot that can happen,” said Mori. “I have to realize the version I had in my mind is not necessarily the right version.”

Allowing for the collaboration between teams can only be effective when everyone is working together. Organization of all pieces of the play is a dimension that is unique and vital to theater production, and another lesson that can only be learned through taking part in the process.

“The hardest thing about the One Acts is keeping that communication open with your creative teams, like making sure that the stage manager isn’t pulling props and that the director isn’t designing the sets. It’s making sure that everyone is talking so everyone can do their job,” said Lewis.

Both the writer and the director are present during the rehearsals of the plays, and the combination of their artistic visions is an important part in the production process that the audience misses in the final product. Cues for stage direction or certain lines must often be changed within the transition from script to acting, and this transition is mediated in part by the director. The play “Skin Like Iron,” written by junior Sam Gelband and directed by senior Eli Zavatsky carefully combines the creative vision of both.

“[Gelband] wrote a play that is expressing a part of himself that is very real, and my job as a director is to try to enhance and imprint part of my reality on that,” said Zavatsky.

This is the first play that Zavatsky has directed, and he acknowledges the process and relationship that he has had with the script and characters.

“I’m figuring it out as I go along in a lot of ways, and, Sam has said this, it seems like I know the play better now than he does,” said Zavatsky. “I’m coming at it in a different way because I have been inside his play for a couple weeks now and he has been far from it.”

According to the Production Manager Handbook, the One Acts Play Contest was started by Professor of Physics Craig Gunsul because he believed that Whitman was “superior in teaching analytic behavior but deficient in encouraging creative behavior.”

The shows will be held at 8 p.m. on Feb. 11-14 and at 2 p.m. on Feb. 15. Tickets are free for Whitman students, 12 dollars for adults and eight dollars for seniors.