One act turned into threeThe three District 833 high schools took out the competitive aspect when the schools came together on Monday for the District One -Act Festival on the Loft Stage at East Ridge. East Ridge performed “Sideways Stories from Wayside School,” Woodbury High School performed “The Flying Doctor” and Park High School performed “The Children’s Hour.”
By: Amber Kispert-Smith, Woodbury Bulletin
Even though the annual one-act plays typically go under attended, East Ridge High School one act director Katie Carlson said it is the educational value of the shows that makes them worth it.
“There is such a learning curve with one acts,” she said. “How do we make due with minimal set, how do we make due with minimal costume, how can we work together to figure it out — it’s a huge learning process.”
The way the one-act plays work is that Minnesota schools compete in one act competitions where there are rules and judges choosing which school gets to move on to the next round of competitions.
None of the three District 833 high schools have moved on in the competition.
“Traditionally when you do a show it’s all leading up to that performance,” Carlson said. “But with competition, even if you have a really good show, there’s that disappointment factor to work on something so hard and just have it be over.”
However, the three District 833 high schools took out the competitive aspect when the schools came together on Monday for the District One -Act Festival on the Loft Stage at East Ridge.
East Ridge performed “Sideways Stories from Wayside School,” Woodbury High School performed “The Flying Doctor” and Park High School performed “The Children’s Hour.”
Behind the mask
This year’s WHS one act play was Moliere’s classic “The Flying Doctor.”
Co-director Tyler Olsen said they chose the show because it was a comedy, but also had that classical feel to it.
“We tend to think the serious shows are the ones that win,” he said. “So we wanted a show with a classical feel to it, but that was also very funny.”
“The Flying Doctor” tells the story of star-crossed lovers Valere and Lucile. Lucile’s father won’t let the two marry, so the two devise a plan with the help of Lucile’s servant and cousin. Lucile’s servant’s idea is for Lucile to fake an illness and hire a fake doctor to keep Lucile’s father occupied while the two sweethearts escape to marry. However along the way, the “doctor” is caught without his doctor’s coat so he devises a plan that he is the doctor’s estranged brother. The doctor must then keep up the charade of playing twin brothers.
“The Flying Doctor” utilized a unique style of performance called commedia dell’arte, which had the actors dress in masks as well as utilize a style of physical comedy.
Olsen said he chose the style of performance not only because he has a background in it, but it allowed the students to experiment with masks.
“The great thing about masks is that they have a whole life of their own,” he said. “So, you get a new set of tools.”
Creating magic on stage
Carlson said she chose the collection of children’s stories “Sideways Stories from Wayside School” for East Ridge’s one act because it was completely opposite of last year’s show.
“Last year we did ‘Dracula’ so it was very dark and moody,” she said. “So I wanted to do something different that was fun and interactive.”
“Sideways Stories of Wayside School” tells the story of an elementary school accidentally built 31 stories high, rather than 31 classrooms wide. The stories chronicle the unique teachers and students who inhabit the building.
Carlson said “Sideways Stories from Wayside School” had some unique challenges to address since there was a lot of magic that happens on stage, such as students turning into apples and a teacher who wiggles her ears.
“Wayside School is a very magical school, there’s a lot of magic that happens,” she said. “So the challenge becomes how do we make characters turn into an apple, how do you make ears wiggle.”
Carlson solved the magic problem by casting three students, who dress in all black unitards, to perform the magic of the show.
“They auditioned like every other actor,” she said. “But they had to be able to be stealth in the background and act when they were 100 percent covered.”
However, Carlson said the biggest challenge in this year’s show was having her students create believable characters, since they are so over the top in the books.
“When high schoolers play little kids, it’s real easy to go over the top,” she said. “You want them to be crazy and outlandish, but still be believable.
“It was a challenge, but it was a doable challenge and a fun challenge.”