WWU students polish plays for one-act festival

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Directing a one-act, as the student directors of Walla Walla University are learning, is a complicated endeavor. Drama minors Darcy Sturges, Shane Wood, Jessica Roe, Bjorn Smars, and Amy Shine, have chosen their material, selected their casts and prepared their one-acts, which are the culmination of a two-quarter directing class taught by Professor David Crawford.

The first challenge for the directors was to choose the right script. Wood said he went through dozens of anthologies before deciding on "Medusa's Tale," a retelling of the Greek myth of the snake-haired woman.

There was also the problem of choosing audience-appropriate material. Several of the directors noted that their first choices were denied on the basis of questionable content, while others remain concerned about audience reaction to their plays.

Smars in particular, worried about his production "I'm Not Stupid," which invites the audience into the life of a young adult with the mind of a child who is abused by his mother.

"I'm not sure this audience is going to take it very well. It might be too realistic," Smars said.

Smars, a first time director, knew that the play would be a challenge to him, but he selected it because it intrigued him. He hopes audience members will be moved by the dark material.

Shine also chose to work with darker subject matter. Her play "Women and Wallace" combines suicide and romance.

"It's the story of a boy whose mother kills herself in the second scene. It's very tasteful, I assure you," Shine said.

Despite the intense premise, Shine said her actors are finding more and more humor in the script, which she selected with great care.

"It was a a really fine balance between dark, edgy humor and smart dialogue without crossing boundaries that are clearly set on the Walla Walla University stage," Shine said.

Of the five plays, two are more overtly comedic: Sturges' "Overtones," which shows the inner thoughts of proper Victorian women, and Roe's "The Odd-Couple," a story about two men living together after one is kicked out by his wife.

"I wanted to do something funny, because I think serious things are really hard to direct, and since I'm kind of an amateur director it was easiest to pick humor," said Roe.

Aside from being an opportunity to be a director, the one-act play festival is a competition. Audience members vote on their favorite one act, and the winning director has the opportunity to reprise their show during University Days, when high school students from all over the Northwest come to the WWU campus.

In past years, the one-act festival has brought out the competitive side in the directors, especially when it came to casting. This year's directors, however, have collaborated on many aspects of their one-acts. Wood and Shine read scripts aloud to each other during their vacations to help select their plays. Sturges, who is experienced in make-up, is helping Wood plan his actors' stage make-up.

Roe, who indeed picked a comedy, seemed optimistic about her chances.

"I hope I win. But if I don't, then the better person deserves to win. I just hope the audience picks the best piece," Roe said.

The WWU one-act festival will be showing Feb. 27, 28 and March 4, 6, and 7 at 8 p.m. in Village Hall. Reservations can be made by calling the box office at 527-2158.

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