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Acting School Networks with Bay Area Directors for One Act Festival

Director of Theatre Programs Hector Zavala put the School of Acting’s collaboration mode in full throttle as he sought out Bay area playwrights and directors for the first ever One Act Festival.

True to its name, the One Act Festival was created to showcase a series of one-act plays that Academy of Art University students performed in. Held in two nights in December, the festival proved to be another great opportunity for the students to earn real-world experience in the realm of theatre production.

Crossing Bridges to Build Bridges

To ensure that this festival truly becomes as collaborative as possible, Zavala went out of the comfortable confines of the Academy and sent out a call to Bay Area playwrights to take a crack at a one-act play. A total of 70 submissions came through, which were then whittled down to a more manageable nine.

With the help of Executive Director of the Schools of Entertainment Jana Sue Memel and Academic Vice President of Entertainment and Broadcast Media Melissa Sydeman, Zavala picked out the strongest ones that the student-actors were going to bring to life.

Four of the nine plays were then handed to guest directors, also sourced from the Bay Area: Marcelo Javier, Valerie O’Riordan, Vinh G. Nguyen, and Ely Sonny Orquiza. The remaining five plays were then entrusted into the very capable hands of School of Acting faculty, namely Tracy Ward, Emilie Talbot, Clark Houston Lewis, Anthony Montes, and Sydeman herself.

Taking the Class Center Stage

 For the students, an opportunity like this means another way for them to clear their path heading into the industry of acting. As much as learning technical skills and techniques are important, gaining experience on the actual stage is just as crucial3 too.

For Tara Althaus, the production she took part in, Fish Tale, provided this experience. “The great opportunity for me was that my director is one of my teachers, Anthony Montes. This is my first opportunity to actually apply the things he’s taught me in an actual live performance.”

One Act Festival
Tyler Ho and Kenzie James in One Act Festival. Photo courtesy of Bob Toy.

Meanwhile, student Mariah Moore of the Crazy Quilts production found it immensely exciting how so many layers of emotions and plot twists can exist within all twenty minutes of a play. “It was intriguing, the stories they had available,” she said. “They revolve around these important societal issues—ours is about domestic abuse and whether it be physical or emotional it affects a lot of people. It’s interesting to see how that plays out.”

The directors are just as in for the ride as the students are. Guest director Nguyen, who was at the helm of Crazy Quilts, was all praises for the participating Academy students. “To be working with such smart and mature actors has been such a joy. They do their homework, they come in with questions, and they collaborate, so it’s been very refreshing.”

Networking and Collaborating the Academy Way

Speaking of collaboration, costume design students from the School of Fashion also crossed over to the Acting department to lend their creative contributions.

All the Worlds are Stages costume designer Phoebe Taylor encapsulates her experience in one statement: “It’s really satisfying at the end to see all the hard work come together.”

It’s no breezy walk in the park too, most certainly, as there are a lot of nuances that costume designers have to consider in order to dress the actors as effectively as possible on stage.

As Kendra Evans put it, “I think the biggest challenge is designing costumes that no one considers are costumes. Things people wear every day. Things you look at as ‘that’s just a jeans and t-shirt, that doesn’t take designing,’ but it kind of does. We have to figure out, okay, let’s take this character, would they wear jeans and a t-shirt or would they wear a hoodie?”

As for Zavala, this experience has turned out to be such a pivotal one, especially for the students. “Our students are connecting with professional directors, which I think is key for their professional growth. These directors are already talking about, ‘Oh, maybe you can work for with me in this other show.’”

With this path opened up for the aspiring actors, the One Act Festival may have just turned out to be the First Act in the development of their acting careers.

Story originally published by Christina Schreil in Academy Art News

Images courtesy of Bob Toy

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