The One Acts Festival Brings Important Storytelling to the Stage

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Published April 7, 2023
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The Montclarion
(left to right): Derek Rizzo, Nick Najarian, Lea Dempsey, Stone Russell and Summer Longo are part of the cast of "Distant Planet." Avery Nixon | The Montclarion

On a windswept and rainy April Fools’ Day, Players: A Programming Board of the Student Government Association (SGA) transformed the Student Center Nest into a lively, buzzing venue to host their final performance of a two-night-only series of six one-act plays, appropriately titled the “One Acts Festival 2023.”

The show focused on a range of topics with deep and compelling themes such as mental health, challenging familial constructs, profound loss and unsung desire. The passion of both the playwrights and actors was vivid and raw, which radiated beyond the sunken stage of the Nest.

With the house lights slowly dimming, the room full of attendees awaited anxiously for the maiden play, “Life in Disguise,” co-written and directed by freshman film and television major Andrew Cooper and sophomore journalism and digital media major Nino Denino to throw out the first theatrical pitch of the night.

Denino spoke of how the build-up to the show felt.

“I got super nervous, like last night I was a mess,” Denino said. “I’m just so proud of everything. [The actors have] come so far.”

Andrew Cooper and Nino Denino

Andrew Cooper (left) and Nino Denino (right) are co-writers and directors of "Life in Disguise." Avery Nixon | The Montclarion

As the lights finally came down, the festival began with plenty of laughter radiating through the crowds as the quirky and intelligent comedy “Life In Disguise,” a play focused on the mundane and quieter moments of life despite the walls and faces people put up, not only set the stage for those to come but laid the foundation for a great night of independently written and produced student theatre.

Jenna Wilkinson plays a part in "Distant Planet." Avery Nixon | The Montclarion

Jenna Wilkinson plays a part in "Distant Planet." Avery Nixon | The Montclarion

The second play of the night, “Four,” written and directed by sophomore theatre studies major Emily Sebilia, was a sobering pivot away from the comedic chops of the previous performers. It set the tone for the coming shows as an important message to the audience as to say, ‘You may laugh in here, but please know there is room for reflection, education and empathy too.’

“Four,” a play that deals with the realities of living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), was a frank and personal exploration of the complex nature of misunderstood mental health battles and the intrapersonal challenges others often struggle to comprehend.

Caroline Cook

Caroline Cook starred in "Four," a play that shows the realities of living with OCD.
Avery Nixon | The Montclarion

Caroline Cook, a freshman double majoring in theatre studies and political science who starred in “Four,” spoke on the play’s meaning.

“OCD is a really misrepresented mental illness,” Cook said. “A lot of people think that it’s just like the obsessive cleanliness or being obsessive about grades, but it’s really not that at all. I think it’s a really important story that needs to be shared.”

Important storytelling was a prominent focus of the night’s events. Even if at the surface level any number of the plays could make you laugh or cry, they also evoked so much to be appreciated and were a testament to the creative minds behind the works.

In the play “Side Quest,” a fantasy adventure story by senior filmmaking major Meredith Harmon, the great costume design and endearing world-building perpetuated by clever and witty dialogue (thanks to its cast’s undeniable chemistry) resulted in an effortlessly fun and funny performance.

“Alright, I Confess!,” written and directed by sophomore business administration major Kate Nixon, presented the audience, through the use of on-stage conversation acting as narration, an engaging who-done-it plot with thought-out twists and turns culminating in a substantial pay-off with plenty of laughs.

The emotional “A Call Through Time” by sophomore English and film and television major Kayla Carlamere showcased arguably the best acting of the evening by all of its cast members, in part elevated by a tragic yet beautiful story about loss and love in the wake of a father’s passing.

The final and most unique show of the evening, “Distant Planet,” an interstellar musical adventure written and directed by junior film and television major Jared Tauber. It was an intuitive cosmic performance laced with innuendos and brilliant lyrical storytelling resulting in a fun and worthy conclusion to the night’s events.

“Distant Planet” was an anticipated show of the evening thanks to its word-of-mouth reputation from the previous night’s performance. This is in part due to its out-of-this-world premise, spectacular costume and make-up and engaging choreography.

Davin Budich, a junior business administration major, came to the show with only a little bit of prior knowledge as to what was to come. But he was happy with the outcome, especially that of “Distant Planet.”

“I’d say it lived up to the hype,” Budich said. “It was the show with the most energy, and I think the crowd was the most excited. I think it was definitely the best one. I know how hard everyone worked, so to get to see it all come to life was great.”

If viewers were to take away anything, beyond that of the content of the plays, it should have been the clear and consistent messaging about the importance of independent and collegiate-level playwriting.

The artistic director of the Players executive board, Maggie Aube, a senior theatre studies major, expressed this notion after the show.

“Student-written theatre is incredibly important to produce at such a local level because this could be the next show that you see [on] Broadway or in New York or off-Broadway,” Aube said. “It’s really important to start here and perform it here so that [actors and playwrights] get that confidence that they need to know that they’re actually doing really great work, especially when it has such strong messages.”

Maggie Aube

Maggie Aube is the artistic director of the Players' executive board.
Avery Nixon | The Montclarion

Players hosts several shows and events throughout the year, including the upcoming “The Floor Is M.I.L.F.” on April 14 and 15 and “9 To 5: The Musical” on April 21 through 23. You can also check out more performances like this by visiting them on Instagram @msuplayers.

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