Three Central Peninsula high school drama clubs and one adult club are participating in this year’s One-Act Play. Each of the four groups will be performing a half-hour play on Thursday and Saturday evenings at the Soldotna High School Auditorium.
The program consists of “The Suessification of Romeo and Juliet,” a Dr. Suess/William Shakespeare mash-up performed by Soldotna High School, the fast-paced verbal comedy “How to Kill a Mockingbird,” performed by Kenai Central High School, the experimental meta-play “The Red Balloon,” presented by the Kenai Performers, and “13 Ways to Screw Up Your College Interview,” by a mixed cast from Soldotna High School and Soldotna Preparatory School.
This will be the second installment of the One-Act Play Festival.
It was initiated last year by SoHi drama teacher Terri Zopf-Schoessler.
In her previous role as a dance coach at the former Skyview High School, she and another high school instructor had the idea of an arts event that combined performances from different area schools.
Zopf-Schoessler and other local coachs sucessfully organized a mass high school dance event, which she said has been going for the past five years.
“Last year, we thought ‘Why don’t we do the same thing for plays?’” said Zopf-Schoessler. “Everyone brings their own plays, does their own stuff, and we’ll bring them together.”
At the festival Zopf-Schoessler organized last year, Soldotna and Kenai High Schools performed a play each.
This year’s festival doubled the number of participants by including Soldotna Preparatory School and the Kenai Performers.
The play that Zopf-Schoessler’s Soldotna High School Drama Troupe brought to this year’s event was “The Suessification of Romeo and Juliet.” Both it and “13 Ways to Screw Up Your College Interview” were taken from Random Acts of Comedy, a book of one-act scripts by the writers of Saturday Night Live.
“It’s translating Shakespeare into Dr. Seuss,” said Zopf-Schoessler. “What would happen if Dr. Seuss told the story. And it’s hysterical.”
“It’s really fun to experiment with the costuming and the hair and the makeup,” said Soldotna High School senior Mandarin Wilcox, who performs as Juliet. “To play with the cheesiness of it. It has really accentuated hand movements and blocking.”
Sarah Erfurth, drama and English teacher from Soldotna High, and Heather Swanson, drama teacher from Soldotna Preparatory School, co-directed a cast of 15 students in “13 Ways to Screw Up Your College Interview.”
When asked about the particular challenges of a one-act play, Erfurth said “Mostly it’s just a lot attention to detail, because every second counts when it’s that short of a play. Especially in comedy, getting the inflection correct is the biggest challenge. It can fall flat really easily if you don’t.”
Meredith McCullough, director of Kenai Central’s “How to Kill a Mockingbird,” said her play is about “a group of slackers who were supposed to do a book report on To Kill a Mockingbird, but none of them did it. So now they’re trying to figure out how to cover.”
“It’s kind of like Seinfeld, in that it’s a play about nothing, but we see all these different characters,” McCullough said.
“How to Kill a Mockingbird,” involved eleven students, including backstage managers. McCullough said that most were new to drama.
“One challenge we had is that there’s not a lot of movement and blocking in the play because they’re sitting in a restaurant, so a lot of what they have to do is with facial expressions and body language, rather than getting up and moving around,” McCollough said.
“Its been a big challenge with kids who are incredibly movement-oriented. That’s been a whole new learning experience: how to portray the characters with just the voice, face, and hands. They’re coming along really well with that,” she said.
This year, high school drama clubs were not the only groups to bring plays to the festival.
The adult volunteer theatre group Kenai Performers brought a three-person play, “The Red Balloon,” directed by Donna Shirnberg.
“It’s very cute,” said Shirnberg, who acts in the play as well as directing.
“This is my first time directing, so it’s been a learning curve,” said Schirnberg. “I’ve had to learn lighting and sound cues–I’ve never done that before. It’s a different lingo between us actors and the tech crew.”
The Kenai Performers are filing a slot in the program left by Nikiski High School, whom Zopf-Schoessler had originally invited to perform, but who were unable to attend due to another commitment.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Schirnberg. “It’s a nice community event, and it’s nice to get to work with the high school kids.”
“It’s been fantastic to do the festival with the other high schools, to be able to have the kids connect through drama” McCollough said.
“We do that a lot through athletics and other activities in this district. So to be able to have them come together through something that’s not a traditional field, to see other students who are interested in the arts–that’s been really cool,” she said.
Reach Ben Boettger at firstname.lastname@example.org