Normally, going to a final is the last thing you’d want to do, but in the case of the Directing I class at Pensacola State College (PSC), finals are entertaining.
“A Night of One Acts” is Friday, April 22 and Saturday, April 23 at 7:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
Students have been working on their plays since the beginning of the semester. They chose the play and the actors with very little restrictions.
“We don’t consciously pick a theme for the festival each year, as I feel that would dampen a director’s freedom to choose a script that really speaks to them,” said Rodney Whatley, the Directing I professor in an e-mail interview. “The scripts should be ones that benefit the community, the school, the student actors cast and be a learning experience for the director.”
The plays chosen are diverse. There’s a good mix of comedy, drama and those that cannot be categorized.
“I chose ‘Goldberg Street’ by David Manet,” said sophomore Kat Cooper. “It’s very different. It’s not a comedy…it’s a little daring, and pretty abstract.”
Cooper has directed plays before at PSC and The Pensacola Little Theatre, but this is her first time directing solo, and for a grade no less.
While it would be almost impossible to direct a full-length play on top of other classes, having just one act to get your point across came with some pressure.
“You have to make wiser choices since you have less time to get to your central theme,” Cooper said.
Although, the longer the play the more restless the audience becomes.
“Many audiences do not have the patience to sit through long plays,” Whatley said. “Even when the material is great, popular tastes these days run toward shorter plays, and this is an excellent exercise for our student directors, actors and designers.”
Jasmine Bernard is a dual-enrollment student directing her first play. For Bernard, being assertive was the hardest part of the directing process.
“Being a director, you’re in charge of the whole process, and you have to work with people,” Bernard said. “I’m mostly a follower, so it’s hard for me to tell people what to do.”
Bernard is directing “The Worker” by Walter Wykes, which is about a man who has to tell his wife that he’s behind at work and may be at risk of losing his job. While the play is relevant to large numbers of unemployed workers in our country, Bernard chose this play because it has the right amount of comedy and drama.
“A lot of the scenes could go either way, so I could choose to play it up more or play it down,” she said. “I had that room to decide whether the scene should be funny or serious.”
The actors had to be just as flexible.
“They had to have a strong presence and also have that weakness behind that strength.”
When sophomore Michael Smith searched for a play, he wanted pure comedy.
“All of our plays are diverse,” Smith said. “Some shows people will have to think, but my play is just plain fun.”
Smith is directing “Making the Call” by Jane Martin. The play is a political comedy about a female Secret Service Agent who gets a mysterious call from the president.
Smith has been involved for theatre for almost 16 years, but this was his first opportunity to direct. Now that time is running out, Smith is getting stressed.
“I’m about to pull my hair out–in a good way,” Smith said. “I lucked out because I have two experienced and calm actors.”
To make all of this hair-pulling worth the director’s efforts, come out and enjoy a few of the plays. They’re roughly 15 minutes each and free, which means you have very few excuses to miss this evening of entertainment.
“Our main goal is to entertain the audience and to give them something to think about, depending on the play,” Whatley said. “The audience is doing us a favor by coming to the show. Directors don’t watch their shows onstage as much as they watch their audience to see if they’re receiving the director’s intended message. This is a great showcase of the work our students are doing here at Pensacola State and a great way for members of the community to get up onstage and play.”
A NIGHT OF ONE ACTS
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 22 and Saturday, April 23
WHERE: Pensacola State College, Ashmore Fine Arts Auditorium