From a 6-year-old with an alter ego, to a group of senior citizens struggling as they near the end of life, to a 21st-century fairy tale, Weber State University's One-Act Play Festival has it all.
Students enrolled in Tracy Callahan's second-year directing course have pulled together seven 30- to 45-minute productions, complete with student casts and costumes, to bring on the laughter and to bring on the tears.
Three of the plays, "Dogbrain," "The Loveliest Afternoon of the Year" and "Mirror, Mirror," are appropriate for all audiences. In fact, "Dogbrain," is written for children.
The other four, "Cowboy Mouth," "Endgame," "Jolly" and "Women and Wallace," contain elements intended for mature audiences.
Callahan said her students have put on the festival annually for about 15 years.
Each year, she starts the class out with 10-minute plays and works up to one-acts as the semester progresses. Then, student directors choose a script and hold auditions.
The one-act plays allow the directors to fully experience all elements of producing without the complexity of full-length three-act plays.
In addition to casting, they also work with lighting, set and costume directors and oversee one month of rigorous rehearsals.
Laura Crossett, who directs "Dogbrain," written by Michael Weller, said it's been a lot of work, but she has enjoyed the journey. She is a returning WSU student after earning her associate's degree in 1996. Since that time, she has been directing and performing.
The main character in her play, Nick, is a 6-year-old boy with naughty tendencies. He always blames his messes on a fictional character named "Dogbrain." That is, until Dogbrain takes on a life of his own.
As he interacts with his younger brother, his parents and his teacher, he begins learning how to conquer his inner imagination -- and discovering the balance between following his impulses and doing what is right.
"It is intended for young audiences, but it contains universal themes and universal truths about balancing the desires of your heart," Corssett said.
"Mirror, Mirror" is a humorous tale written by Bruce Kane and directed by Trent Cox, a junior in the theater education program. It spins the stories of "Sleeping Beauty" and "Snow White" into a modern-day fairy tale.
While it is mostly for laughs, Cox said, the story also inspires personal introspection about one's concept of beauty, and whether it includes an emphasis on inner beauty as well as outward appearance.
"I really like the story. It is very funny, well-written and witty," said Cox. The opportunity to direct has given him valuable hands-on experience that he feels will help him in his future career as a secondary-school drama teacher.
Time of growth
On the other end of the spectrum, Kaelyn West chose a tragic story, "The Loveliest Afternoon of the Year." She said she was immediately drawn to the characters, whom she describes as sweet and inwardly beautiful.
The story is about a male and a female who have been trying to break out of the molds society has stuck them into. After a chance meeting, they decide to risk everything for a few moments of happiness, rather than continue to endure a lifetime of unhappiness.
"It's a beautiful vignette of the human existence," West said. "It's quirky, cute and thought-provoking."
Directing this play has given West a new confidence in her own creativity. "I wasn't sure that I'd be able to do it, but I found out I can," she said. She hopes to eventually make her way to Broadway and to also find work as a playwright.
"Endgame," by Samuel Becket, directed by Aubrey Vickers, centers around the lives of four senior citizens struggling with loneliness and co-dependency.
"Jolly," by David Mamet, directed by Andrew Nadon, brings to life two characters reflecting on how their pasts affected later choices.
"Cowboy Mouth," by Sam Shepard and Patti Smith, directed by Nicole Finney, takes a look at how the American dream sometimes spoils happiness.
And "Women and Wallace," by Jonathan Marc Sherman, directed by Tyson Baker, examines the life of Wallace as he interacts with various females.
Only Tuesday's performances are appropriate for general audiences. All other evenings will contain material for mature audiences.
- Tuesday: "Dogbrain"; "Mirror, Mirror"; "The Loveliest Afternoon of the Year"
- Wednesday: "Endgame"; "Women and Wallace"; "Jolly"
- Thursday: "Dogbrain"; "The Loveliest Afternoon of the Year"; "Cowboy Mouth"
- April 15: "Women and Wallace"; "Endgame"; "Cowboy Mouth"
- April 16: "Mirror, Mirror"; "The Loveliest Afternoon of the Year"; "Jolly"