The One Acts festival has historically been a magical jewel in the crown of the Lick-Wilmerding performing arts department. The One Acts are written, directed, and performed exclusively by students. This year freshman, sophomores, juniors, and seniors were the authors of the One Acts and the interludes.
In general, the One Acts hold strong moral lessons – but not overbearingly, often through whimsy or satire, and sometimes through heart-wrenching explorations. The authors and directors work their magic through serious conversations as well as comedy.
Perhaps one of the funniest One Acts this year was the opening play “Morning Meeting,” written by Zach Hollander ’15 and Maggie Decena ’15 and directed by Nick Frangenberg ’15. Starring Nigel Berkeley ’17 as Principal Dr. Martucci, “Morning Meeting” satirizes a conjured version of what goes on behind the scenes during a Monday morning faculty meeting and how a teacher’s classroom façade might not accurately depict their personality. The play is hilarious, combining aliases of real Lick-Wilmerding teachers, bold curse words, and oddly true thoughts about students at Lick (and all humans). Hollander declares that he and Decena had two aims when they wrote the play: “One was to tease the world of the adults among us. Our version is obviously utterly absurd and entirely derivative; so much fun to satirize. The other aim, if you want a more complex answer, was to break down the dichotomy (if you think it exists) of teachers and students, which might seem formidable. The play was based off the idea that they are after all just like us. Again, blown out of proportion to an extreme amount,” says Hollander.
One Act number two was “Shoot the Messenger,” one of the smallest One Acts, considering there were only three actors: Adam Barr- Neuwirth ’17, Emily Dwyer ’15, and Jack Fong-Gougoutas ’16. “Shoot the Messenger” was written by Meredith Fry ’17 and directed by Gabby Sanchez- Corea ’15; it tells the story of a young woman (played by Dwyer) whose life seems to be headed downhill. She’s on her way to the airport to start a new life in Nebraska after getting fired from her job and breaking up with her boyfriend (played by Fong); she leaves her house and climbs into an Uber car. The driver turns out to be the Archangel Gabriel, who had stolen the woman’s soul in order to experience himself human life on earth. He has a bet with the other archangels who say he can’t last on earth more than six months. Gabriel realizes by stealing the woman’s soul, he has ruined her life and is the cause of her loss of all emotions; he has decided he must give it back (the soul is in a gift box in the Uber car) and tells her he has come to “fix her.” The play deals with the idea that “humanity is a messy, bittersweet thing that everyone has to go through. You can’t just escape it,” says Fry. And that the messy, bittersweet thing is so worth it.
The third play was “Channel 2 News.” In a post-apocalyptic world, a news station anchored by robots presents the news, but one of the robots, Unit 3, begins to feel sentiment and gradually realizes that the world is brainwashed by a higher power. As a result, Unit 3 gets shut down (destroyed) and replaced. So does the “good human” producer of the news show who values Unit 3’s diversity and sensitivity. It’s a complex story, with a Hunger-Gamesesque ambiance. Written by Nora Stacy ’17, directed by Jacqueline Blaska ’15.
Post-intermission was “Naomi”, written by Daniel Holzman ’17 and directed by Reishan McIntosh ’15. The play pushes the boundaries of the norms of appropriate content for a high school theater production as it entails harsh yet necessary language, a lesbian kiss scene, heterosexual intercourse, and mayhem. It tells the story of two girls, one dead and one alive. It takes place in the mind of the living girl as she tries to analyze and figure out the core cause of the other girl’s death. Holzman’s explanation is deceptively simple. “I think I was trying to represent that feeling you get when something awful happens and you go over it in your head hundreds of times, every time trying to change what happened in your head, which ultimately just stops yourself from acceptance.” The take away from this One Act, pushed by insistent fate, was acceptance.
The fifth play of the Festival’s line-up was “Teen Clinic,” the story of a teen visiting her gynecologist to pick up her birth controlprescription.Coincidentally her doctor turns out to be her ex- boyfriend’s father. Their meeting is excruciatingly awkward, until the truth that the ex-boyfriend cheated on her, not vise versa, comes out. Written by August Rock ’15 and Clio Gervitz ’15 and directed by Claire Fry ’15, the production examines the role of parents and their relationships with their teens and their teens’ relationships with other teens.
The festival closed with “Settled Down” written by Samuel Berston ’15 and directed by Loie Plautz ’15. Jeanne, a 22-year-old biochemist has decided to retire to an old age home in order to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. While there, she has many interesting experiences being the oddball of the group. Berston claims, “I know it was a pretty silly play but it was motivated by some actual personal and serious feelings. To me, it was about always wanting to get to the end– whether that be college, a 4.0, or any future-y goal. The protagonist accomplishes it by retiring, the final step in most people’s lives, only to realize how unfulfilling it is. The old people teach her not to “settle down.” It also made me think about, how am I “settling down” by going with a prescribed path? Am I settling down by going to a nice private school, doing well, and not making my own path?
A fabulous part of the One Act Festival is the innovation,introduced five years ago, of the interludes – played in front of the curtain during set changes. The Festival begins with an interlude – and one falls between each play. Six plays, six interludes. The Interludes offer a variety of odd, funny, or sitcom like takes. Each is a deliciously handled satire of a situation we recognize. The first, “The Heckler” written by Cole Crawford ’16, starred Oliver York ’17 and Maia Schwarts ’17 as a mother and son. The son is trying to present his stand-up comedy routine. The interfering, hilariously and horribly possessive, intrusive mother, who is seated off stage in the first row of the theater, leaps out of her seat to interrupt, photograph, cheer, and embarrass, as the poor son struggles on. The interlude following “Morning Meeting” was “Expanded Horizons,” by Lawrie Mankoff ’15 and Atessa Moghimi ’16. “Expanded Horizons” satirizes a summer Spanish language trip to Spain – as they gather together at the airport, the trip’s disheartened leaders desperately try to engage the disinterested students. Preceding “Channel 2 News” was “Dog Days” written by Alex Yeh ’18, a delightful duet between Troy Mock ’15 and Cameron Rosen ’15 in which Rosen plays a floppy eared dog (on all fours, eagerly trying to get the attention of his studious owner (Mock) who only wants to do his homework – not throw the silly obsessive loving dog’s slimy tennis ball.
“Poker Face” followed “Naomi.” “Poker Face,” written by Cameron Rosen starred Camryn Hollarsmith ’16 and Katie Vestal ’15. A cop, played by Vestal, pulls over a teenage boy, played by Hollarsmith, as he’s driving home late one night. The banter between the two shows the boy outsmarting by out philosophizing the cop. Last but not least, before “Settled Down,” the interlude “Reunion” written by Sydney Hirschmann ’18, directed by Rachael Cornejo ’16, and starring Silvana Montagu ’18 and Maia Moredock- Ting ’18, depicted the tale of two girls (friends in life) when one is buried next to the other.
For some students, the Annual One Acts Festival plays a pivotal role in their years at Lick. Students who begin with the One Acts freshman year often follow through with the festival until they graduate. For example, Jacqueline Blaska has been one of those committed to the One Act Festival each of the four years she has been at L-W. Her freshman year, Jacqueline acted in “Socks” and helped build the set for two other plays. During her sophomore year, she acted in “An Ado About Nothing.” Junior year, Blaska acted in “Criminally Obnoxious” and wrote “Confessions of Three-Tree Valley.” This year, her senior year, Blaska directed “Channel 2 News.” Blaska notes the evolution of the One Acts since her freshman year. She explains, “the biggest evolution I’ve seen with the One Acts the past four years is their popularity. Every year, the number of plays submitted and actors auditioning breaks the previous year’s record. This year, over 35 plays and interludes were submitted; there were well over 100 auditioners. I love that so many different people (including those who may not typically consider themselves “theatre kids”!) want to be involved with this festival. It creates the chance to meet people from disparate social circles, grades, passions and hobbies. The Festivals become such a labor of love. I fundamentally believe that the One Acts unite Lick-Wilmerding, and all for the occasion to celebrate student work, student passion, student collaboration and genius and commitment. That’s what I love about this festival: the One Acts recognize how many truly gifted people there are in this school, who have so many different types of skills. The One Acts bring us all together as one community to laugh and cry and feel and think. All from student work.”
While the One Acts continue to thrive with help of trained, talented actors, they also invite inexperienced ones to audition and try out something that is somewhat foreign. Yanni Velasquez ’15, who we recognize as a superlative dancer, decided to audition this year. He and told his story of discovering the performing arts at Lick- Wilmerding. “I never thought that I would ever see myself acting. I had also told myself I would never see myself dancing on stage before I got into Lick. I came into Lick as a swimmer, and nothing but that. However, each year, I’ve been inspired by my peers, and as a performing artist. I cannot put into words how much I love entertaining people through my movement, facials and character. This year I decided to audition for the One Acts just because I wanted to try to something new before I left Lick. I was a little hesitant at first, being one of few boys of color who auditioned and attended the informational session. However, that didn’t stop me from pursuing and auditioning. I really wanted to take my experience from performing on stage in numerous dance concerts and transform that energy into a new form of art and entertainment. Words can’t express how thankful I am to be a part of the One Acts crew, and I’ve never been around such talented, gifted, diverse and supportive individuals. I play Ellis in Daniel Holzman’s One Act—Naomi, and honestly my fellow cast members have basically been my family. Literally, I cherish every second I have with them. I’m blessed to have been working closely with such amazing people, and I’m thankful for having the opportunity to be part of such a wonderful production before I leave for college. This is an experience I will definitely never forget. Lick has definitely proven that students are encouraged to tread in new waters, while building their individual character and a greater sense of community.
This year over 35 students wrote, 10 directed, over 100 auditioned to act, and many more built sets for, did lights and sound for, managed… and made possible the 27th Annual Festival of One Acts at Lick-Wilmerding.
Friday, opening night, was sold out—crores of theater-goers had to be turned away – to return for the reprise of the show on Saturday afternoon.
Robin von Breton was one of the lucky members of Friday night’s audience. “So funny, so inspiring. Every play. Every interlude. I laughed with such joy and wonder. The best One Act Festival I’ve ever seen!”