Fifteen minutes is all they need to make you laugh, cry or simply ponder life’s meaning.
Unlike traditional performances by Cal Poly’s theatre and dance department the One Act Play Festival gives 19 student directors the opportunity to have complete creative freedom to stage a short 15-minute play and present it to the community.
“We have the three big productions every year and you go to dance shows but you don’t get to see little short bits of something that take an emotion out of you,” theatre junior Rocky Jarman said.
The students learn about directing in TH 450, a capstone class for the department with the one act play being its final project. Theatre and dance professor Josh Machamer said his directing class encompasses all of the necessary steps directors take in the process of bringing a play to life.
Some of the director’s duties include picking out a script, doing a script analysis, conceptualizing the play and creating a cast which also involves having rehearsals and coaching the cast.
When all of the work is done, Machamer said, “It’s like a conductor of a grand symphony or being a parent; you kind of raise this child and send it off on its own to sink or swim.”
Plays range in size, with each cast consisting of two to five characters. In some cases actors are in multiple performances throughout the day.
“You have to cast your show which (Machamer) says and most directors say casting is 90 percent of what directors do and it’s totally true,” theatre junior Melanie Marshall said. Chosen actors needed to fit the script and understand their role and be able to make their character seem believable to the audience.
The festival will consist of genres such as comedies, dramas and some romantic plays.
“Because we are all so different in our personalities we all wanted something different to direct. It all conveniently worked out and I think we were all using different sources and material to look through,” Jarman said.
Jarman said she began her search with 50 to 70 potential scripts then read through 20 to find her ideal play “Finger Foods” by Nina Shengold.
“It’s about a food photographer and a hand model and how their passion for what they do brings them together,” she said.
The characters’ morals are tested when they make a decision to remain professional or have a romantic relation when one of the characters is already married, Jarman added.
The play is full of sexual innuendos which Jarman said she finds really funny. “It’s not so graphic because it’s about food. So it incorporates things that people could just take the wrong way depending on how it was presented and incorporate them into this whole other aspect,” she said. “Instead of them having passion and making out or something he is kissing her hands because she’s a hand model. He wants her hands, not necessarily to have sex with her, which is really funny.”
Marshall’s one act is more of a drama. She first encountered the script while taking a summer acting class at American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco.
“I heard it read two years ago (and) I was like that’s it, that is the one I am doing. I came to the class knowing that is what I wanted to do,” she said.
The play “Camera Obscura” by Robert Patrick had Marshall thinking of the future of relationships and how cyber dating will take affect.
“My play is about two people, a man and a woman, they are in two separate rooms in different parts of the country and they are having a video transmission with each other to basically decide if they want to be together.”
Because the script was short it allowed Marshall the opportunity to create a back story for the characters and put her unique spin on it.
“If you look at Internet dating and Twitter it’s this idea that you don’t have to physically communicate with people to know everything about their life and so my show is, what if it is futuristic and what if this was the world? What if you don’t get to communicate outside of technology at all?” she said.
Another play at the festival ties in the idea of finding a connection as well. “Surprise” by Mark Harvey Levine is directed by theatre senior Calvin Legassie.
“It is about a man who can see two minutes into the future and therefore has a difficult time connecting with people in the present,” he said.
The One Act Play Festival will feature the three plays mentioned as well as 16 others. Each play will be performed twice the festival, which runs June 6 and 7. The plays are broken down between four different time slots with plays starting at 1, 3, 5 and 7 p.m.
“It’s going to be a day full of theatre in its purest form and it’s going to be highly enjoyable,” Legassie said.
Tickets are $5 per start time. The festival will be staged in the black box theatre room 212 in the H.P. Davidson Music Center.
“You have the potential to stay all day to go back out and purchase tickets again,” Machamer said. “Basically you’re looking at a dollar a show which is a great way to see some really fun stuff and they’ll all be different so I think that is the best part about it.”