EMU’s Theatre department presented its annual Student Written One-Act Festival, March. The five plays, written, directed, stage managed and acted by EMU students, explored a wide variety of topics: love, loss, mystery, racism, sexism, injustice, death, new perspectives, the power of storytelling, and more.
Although each piece was very different in its subject matter and setting, all the plays flowed together seamlessly, telling stories that, no matter what they were, deserved to be told.
The festival opened with “The Truth”, written by Myhana Mayes and directed by Chawna Dorsey. The play, which featured Spencer Borner, Amber White, Megan Liepa and Larry Barker III, told the story of a young African-American man understanding for the first time “what it means to be feared”. It was a sobering look at the specific realities that African-American youth, particularly young men, face in this country.
“Edge of Some Cliff”, written by Kelli Beck and directed by Julianne Simon, featured Shawna Medina, Shayne Hapney, Mo Hoeffel and Ali Ghannam as a family struggling to connect and communicate in a time of tension and loss. The play was evocative and sweet, without sentimentality, and was acted with grace and nuance.
The third play, “Miserable: A Tale of Love and Happiness”, was written by Brandon Waldenmayer and directed by Anna Marron. Using a conversation between two very different women in a hospital waiting room, the play explored the complexities of love and what it means to be happy with one’s significant other. Actresses Jackie Marlett and Gina Lock expertly brought the struggles and inner thoughts of the characters to life in this beautifully written study of human emotion.
Next came “No!!!” written by KendraRenee Sanders and directed by Desi Merritt. “No!!!” was a chilling play that delved into the court case of a young black woman raped by a white fraternity member, and the sexism, racism, and white privilege that is used against her in his lawyer’s pursuit of exoneration in the case. Sanders and Merritt skillfully navigated this delicate subject, and the cast, comprised of Deanna Amaker, Alexander Meyer, Ali Ghannam, Morgan Daugherty and Megan Liepa, convincingly brought the story to life.
“I was able to speak with a couple of the audience members every night, and to know that they received my message was more than I could ask for,” said “No!!!” playwright Sanders, a sophomore theatre major.
The final piece in the festival was “Ghost in the Well”, a play inspired by Kaidan and Noh, two genres of traditional Japanese literature. Written by Patrick Takata (who also provided excellent drum accompaniment during the performance) and directed by Analy Aguilar, “Ghost in the Well” told the story of a young serving girl’s revenge on the lustful Samurai she serves.
The play was eerie and mesmerizing, in part narrated by three chorus members, Erin Lucas, Amanda Buchalter, and Prince Priestly, who guided or echoed much of the movement of leads Kiana Gandol and Alex Duncan, creating a captivating puppet/shadow effect.
Takata, a sophomore English Literature major, said, “It’s absolutely surreal to have something that I’ve written being performed onstage… It really felt like a team effort; like we were all working together to make something beautiful.”
With minimal sets -- a table, some chairs, and large wooden blocks that served as chairs, tables and other props -- each piece was able to speak for itself without the stories being distracted by superfluous scenery or props.
“It's really incredible to have the opportunity to work on original, student-written pieces,” said Amanda Buchalter, a junior double majoring in Theatre Arts and Communication, who was in ‘Ghost in the Well’. “All of the shows were very powerful this year, and I think the messages we put out there are something to be proud of.”