One Act Play Festival Preview: East students direct, produce, and perform plays

Every May, East students, teachers, and families gather together as the curtain rises for one of the school’s most beloved and longstanding traditions — the One Act Play Festival. With over forty years of history, One Acts is a festival for which East students work together to direct, manage, and perform a play. Although each play is short, under thirty minutes, every aspect of the performance, from the lights to the props to the stage directions, has been carefully planned and orchestrated by students. Each play will also be evaluated by three outside judges, as part of the competition aspect of the festival. This year’s One Acts showcases seven plays, featuring over forty East students as cast and crew, and will take place on May 6th, starting at 5:00 pm.

The process leading up to the festival begins many months in advance. Students first select plays that they would like to direct, and create a thorough proposal — complete with drafts for directions for blocking, costumes, lighting, and props. If given the green light for their idea, students officially begin organizing their cast and crew. The official auditions for One Act plays are held in March and see both students who are heavily involved in theater as well as those who are just taking part for the first time try out for parts.

“As a cast member, just joining theater, it’s really a nice way to dip your toes in because you’re not thrown into these big heavy productions,” said Trevor Preece (‘24), who is directing the play “About Her” with Rachel Hornstein (‘24). “You’re thrown into these smaller, typically under ten people casts, fifteen people casts, and you get to bond with them really well. And then you can go from there if you want to continue doing theater.”

For many, the student-run aspect of One Acts is what makes it so unique and memorable. Through One Acts, many students get a taste of East theater for the first time. Furthermore, the peer-to-peer based environment often gives students the confidence to be more experimental with their acting and more open about giving suggestions.

“Our main stages, you know, have an all-adult staff, [and are] very rehearsal heavy, and it’s very intense. And [for One Acts], it’s like, we can only rehearse three times a week. That’s all we’re allowed to do. And since it’s all run by students, it’s kind of more chaotic. It’s more comfortable for a lot of people,” said Hornstein.

Student directors and stage managers are in charge of ensuring that rehearsals run smoothly, and coordinating with the stage crew. Most of the directors have taken East’s Play Directing class as well as the other drama/theater courses such as Living Theater and Actors Studio, where they gained skills and experience for putting together a performance.

In addition to producing adaptations of existing plays, some students are taking the process a step further by writing their own plays. Miranda Rosenbaum (‘23) and Sophie Neuwirth (‘23) are the co-writers and co-directors of “Banana Milkshake”, their original play that is debuting at One Acts. Through “Banana Milkshake”, Rosenbaum and Neuwirth hope to raise awareness on abusive relationships.

“We went in with the one goal that if even one person [watching the show] took something away from it, whether it held a mirror to their face and what they’ve been perpetuating into the world or whether it told them that they deserve better than the situation they’re in currently, that would be a win for us,” said Rosenbaum.

And from that one goal, the idea for “Banana Milkshake” was born. As writers, Neuwirth and Rosenbaum allowed their idea to flourish, fleshing out their characters and adding depth and dimension to the storyline.

“You honestly just have to jump right in,” said Neuwirth about their creative process. “I think you just kind of need to start and get the ball rolling because the ideas will come, the depth will come, and you just have to try it out — you never know until you try.”

Student creativity and passion is truly what defines One Acts. For the directors, stage managers, cast, and crew, it’s an opportunity to bring a story to life, captivate an audience, find a community, and make an impact.

“Everybody has things that they’re passionate about, but as a young person, you’re often told to be quiet, that your opinion should not be heard, that you should not be speaking up and standing up for what you believe in. And I think that [One Acts] is a way and an opportunity to defy those standards, and to speak up and say ‘Here’s something that I’m passionate about.’” said Rosenbaum. “So if you have an idea, and you have something that you’re passionate about, write it down, and develop it and deepen it, and it’ll get somewhere.”