When St. Bonaventure University’s theater program presents “One Act Festival VI: Knowing and Un-Knowing,” Nov. 30 through Dec. 2, more than half the cast will be freshman actors, many of whom are new to one-acts.
“Never before have I participated in a one-act play,” says Whitney Downard, a freshman undecided arts major from Vestal. “This is, by far, the shortest production I’ve ever had a role in and I’ve found I like that process.”
“One-acts are challenging for actors because they have to develop a character quickly and present a life fully-formed in 10 or 15 minutes,” says the festival director, Ed. Simone, head of SBU’s theater program.
The actors agree.
“It’s difficult to because it’s harder to develop the character in 10 minutes and, as an actress, it’s difficult to understand the character in such a short script,” Downard says. “(You) need to throw more of yourself into the character.”
The other freshman cast members are Isaac Clayson of Allegany; Anna Martin, a biology major from Hawthorn Woods, Ill.; Hannah Vail, a chemistry major from Irving; and Kayla Back, a biology major from Lake Zurich, Ill.
The plays in “One Act Festival VI: Knowing and Un-Knowing” range from classic pieces, like “Words, Words, Words” by David Ives, to two unpublished plays from last year’s Source Festival in Washington, D.C. Ives plays have been included in five out of the six SBU one-act festivals, starting with “The Universal Language” in 2003. The two unpublished pieces continue SBU Theater’s tradition of exploring new works as part of the one-act festivals.
“One Act Festival VI: Knowing and Un-Knowing” will be presented in a three-quarter format, with the audience seated on three sides of the stage. This, too, harkens back to the theater program’s beginnings.
“The very first one-act festival we did, in 2003, we staged three-quarter, and we haven’t done one since,” says Simone. “We did “More Than Before” in three-quarter and audiences loved being so close. It’s great training for actors, designers and stage managers to work in an alternative configuration.”
In addition to the four freshman actors in “One Act Festival VI: Knowing and Un-Knowing,” the production’s stage manager is also an SBU Theater newcomer — Chernice Miller, a freshman theater and journalism/mass communication major.
“Being a freshman stage manager is something that is definitely different, but exciting because I get to learn a new part of work in theater,” says Miller. “To handle the workload takes a good amount of organization.”
These freshmen come into a long-standing tradition of one-acts in the theater program. The first official SBU Theater one-act festival was produced in 2003. Since 2003, the program has produced a one-act festival roughly every two years, the last being “Reality Bites” in the spring of 2010.
But while the freshman experience anchors one aspect of “One Act Festival VI: Knowing and Un-Knowing,” the production’s design features the work of senior theater and journalism/mass communication major Emily West.
West is designing the set and costumes for “One Act Festival VI: Knowing and Un-Knowing” as part of her senior theater capstone project. West is an experienced student designer, having designed the costumes for SBU Theater’s “Dracula” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and the interior design and set decoration on “Don’t Dress for Dinner.”
West’s set for “One Act Festival VI: Knowing and Un-Knowing” aims to incorporate elements of each play and the world of the audience while creating an environment all its own.
“I see each play as its own reality, and the world of the audience as being another reality on top of that,” says West. “I wanted to create another reality on top of those where all of these things could exist at once. Theater always involves a suspension of disbelief. One-acts ask you to suspend it on seven different levels. Why not celebrate the insanity of that?”
Simone says that, in the past, most of the one-act festivals have had more neutral environments, though all the designs reflected the works presented in some form, including a Piet Mondrian-inspired design for “One Act Festival III.”
“It’s a challenge for designers,” says Simone. “How do you tie the pieces together? Do you choose to tie them together at all?”
West’s set will feature suspended objects, a photographic grass floor, and a life-sized tree in the audience.
“One Act Festival VI: Knowing and Un-Knowing” will be an evening of diverse theater featuring new and veteran actors, classic and unconventional plays, and a design that fully immerses the audience in the experience.
“It’s going to be a fun ride,” says Simone. “And, as always with our one-act festivals, some solid substance under all that laughter.”
“One Act Festival VI: Knowing and Un-Knowing” performs at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 30 through Dec. 2; and at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, in the Garret Theater. An audience talk-back follows the Friday night performance.
Reserved tickets are $8 for the public, $6 for seniors, students, and SBU employees. Phone the box office at 716-375-2494. Free student rush seats are made available, to students from any school, one hour before show time; one ticket per valid student ID, in person at the box office.
Audiences are advised that “One Act Festival VI: Knowing and Un-Knowing” contains adult language and subjects.
About the University: Inspired for more than 150 years by the Catholic Franciscan values of individual dignity, community inclusiveness, and service, St. Bonaventure University cultivates graduates who are confident and creative communicators, collaborative leaders and team members, and innovative problem solvers who are respectful of themselves, others, and the diverse world around them.