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Student playwrights direct one-acts

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by Emily McNichols

Burlington High School (BHS) – Student directors and their cast members are scattered around A-building busily rehearsing their plays for the One Acts Festival. Three directors decided to write original plays which will premiere on opening night.

“We’re really fortunate because we have three people this year that have written very gentle plays in their own way,” Guay-Timpson, the Director of the Drama Department at BHS, said, “These three are very thoughtful plays and they’re all about love and they are very, very, very meaningful themes and really well written.”

The three playwrights are sophomore Wyatt Harte, senior Zoe Koeninger, and senior Isaac Jenemann.

“I’ve wanted to write a One Act since I heard about it last year and I started writing one in around August,” Harte said.

Harte’s play is titled, Man in the Museum and it follows two young adults doing projects on Vincent Van Gogh. They attend a Vincent Van Gogh exhibit at a museum where they meet a man who gives them each different advice causing their projects to spin off in different ways. Harte’s inspiration comes from the Don McLean song “Vincent”, also known as “Starry Starry Night”. Guay-Timpson (“Frau”) is co-directing.

“I was listening to the song, “Sober” by Lorde when I was like, huh,” Koeninger said.

Their play, Two Slow Dancers is centered around an LGBTQ relationship between two women who meet up again at a high school reunion. During high school, the two protagonists had feelings for each other that they kept a secret but are now revealing.

Photo credit: Emily McNichols
The cast of Two Slow Dancers rehearses for the One Act Festival

“I felt really excited for most of it and I was having a good time writing,” Koeninger said.

Jenemann’s play is titled The Last Home Video Store in Persephone New York. It is about a man who owns a home video store and is growing old. Home video stores are becoming irrelevant but the man wants to hold on to his store because it reminds him of his wife.

“It’s a story about love and what it means to grow old,” Jenemann, said.

Harte, Koeninger, and Jenemann have spent countless hours writing, revising, and thinking about their plays after seeing them in action on stage.

“I would be like, ‘I have to write now’, and then I would write it and then I would be like like, ‘That’s good enough for now’, and then I’d basically be done and come back to it,” Koeninger said.

Koeninger compares the process to writing an essay.

“You know when you write a draft, you want to let it rest for a few days and then read it over again,” they said, “I’d rest and read it and then think about it, then I would send it to my friends then I would think about what they said and sort of brainstorm and go from there.”

Photo credit: Emily McNichols
Koeninger directs her play inspired by Lorde’s “Sober”

For Harte, sharing his play was frightening. He expressed his apprehension when he showed his play to his parents for the first time.

“It’s kind of hard when you work really hard on something, just to show it around, I mean you don’t know what kind of feedback you’re going to get,” Harte said.

But as time went on, he became more comfortable and he liked his play.

“When I was confident about it, that gave me confidence to go to Frau with it and I liked Frau a lot when I first met her and we got along well,” Harte said, “I guess I was a little scared at first but it’s just about confidence.”

Confidence was a common struggle for the writers, some more than others, but they all expressed a degree of anxiety on how their plays would be received by their peers.

“It really helps to really know your cast well and have a tight-knit group to make it run and not be weird and stilted,” Jenemann said.

Jenemann’s play has a cast of only four people, including him. Even with four people, there’s still room for interpretation. He talks about the need to keep revising and editing during rehearsals because the plays are different on stage than on paper.

Photo credit: Emily McNichols
Isaac Jeneman sets up his show The Last Home Video Store in Persephone New York

“Often with something you create you put stuff down on the page and the stuff that’s in your head fills in the gaps, but because it’s not on the page the other people who are reading it are like ‘wait, what’s going on here?’Jenemann said, “So you have to step out of that writers lens when you are directing and really help the cast fill in the gaps to get to be show ready.”

But the directors also want the actors and the cast to have some input.

“I’d like to see them to really get into the play and into their characters and feel the emotions and feel like they have power of the story,” Koeninger said, “I also want to see what they think because I don’t really want to force them into a box.

Jenemann believes that achieving that balance really makes for a great play and performance.

“It was my awe and admiration of the kids that I saw directing when I was in their shows that made me want to do it here,” he said.

Even when achieving the balance, there are more obstacles, like the weather.

“With all the snow days it’s been a tighter schedule and we just haven’t had much opportunity to run stuff as a cast,” Jenemann said.

Harte agrees that the weather was a huge obstacle, but he has another one in addition.

“Every One Act only gets thirty minutes of stage time, it’s pretty short,” he said, “It’s hard for me to really see it on stage and really get in depth into each scene when you only have thirty minutes.

Overall, the writers believe the show must go on.

“[I’m] kind of freaked out but it’s going to be okay,” Koeninger said.

Jenemann sums up the feeling.

“Always with shows you never feel ready. You’re always stressed but then when it comes down to showtime that’s the excitement I’m excited for,” he said.

Wednesday, February 20th, is opening night for the One Acts Festival, and there are also shows on Thursday and Friday. Performances start at 7 o’clock in the BHS auditorium and general admission is $2.00. Other directors include Kelsey Francis, Maliki LaForce, Maddi Evans, Tammie Ledoux-Moody, Ava Ingalls, and Zanevia Wilcox. The night will signify the end of six weeks of the directors’ hard work.

“They are really fun, everyone should come see them,” Jenemann said.

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