A casket, a vase, a fish-taco stand and two boys with hot-glued microphones stand before a theater of enraptured audience members. As the voices of senior Cameron Miller and junior Max Frankel echo through the room, a wave of laughter fills the theater. “Fish Tacos,” written by seniors David Foster and Gil Weissman, was one of six plays performed at the One Acts Showcase on May 2 to 4 this year.
The annual showcase is unlike any other production at Paly — it features a collection of six to eight short plays rather than one larger published work and is produced and directed by students. Tickets were $5 for students and $10 for adults; according to theater program director Kathleen Woods, all proceeds went to the Paly Thespian Club.
One Acts has been a long-standing Paly tradition, founded well before Woods came to Paly 12 years ago.
“They used to run (One Acts) a little bit differently — one year they would do published pieces, and then the next year it was all original work,” Woods said. “We’ve moved to a model where it’s a mix depending on what the interests of the writers and directors are.”
This year, a record number of five shows was written.
“(One Acts) has been really funny, and all the actors are really talented,” sophomore Jenna Hickey said after attending one of the shows. “(Fish Tacos) was my favorite — they did such a good job.”
Each show began with a performance by the Paly Improv Troupe, in which random props were given to a small group and an improvised scene was performed.
According to senior Christina O’Konski, who wrote and co-directed “Unfinished Business,” the preparation for the production began just four weeks prior to the first performance — less than half of the rehearsal period for main stage productions. Auditions ran for a week, followed by two weeks of rehearsals and one week of stage tech before the shows began.
“The overall demands of the activity are less because it’s a shorter rehearsal period and a shorter performance period. It’s a chance for students to give Paly theater a try — we almost always have at least one senior who’s never done Paly theater who will be in a show, which is so exciting.”
O’Konski wrote “Unfinished Business” last year while participating in the Young Playwrights Project program. The program was administered by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, a non-profit professional theater company, to high school theater classes to teach students playwriting. To top if off, each student writes a 10 minute play.
“They pick eight of the shows, and professional actors from TheatreWorks come in and do staged readings,” O’Konski said. “That was really exciting, but in that experience, I wished I could have had a more directorial (role) and that it could have been a real show (with a) rehearsal process.”
According to Woods, the Young Playwrights Project lays a foundation for the playwriting part of the theater program to flourish.
“I’m just sitting in my room, typing on a computer and talking to myself — (but) it’s actually a real thing that other people are performing, and that’s just a really unique opportunity. It’s really an amazing experience.”
Junior Isabel Armstrong, who co-directed “I’m in Love With Your Car” with author senior Ben McAuliffe, said that playwrights with two co-directors allow for easier supervision over the production during rehearsals and auditions.
“It’s a lot of just student-on-student interactions, which is really nice,” Armstrong said.
Furthermore, prospective directors must be concurrently enrolled in a theater class at Paly; for those only considering acting, auditions will begin in late March next year.
Armstrong auditioned for One Acts her freshman year, receiving a main role in one of the more serious shows.
“It was really, really meaningful because I was the only freshman, and everyone else in the cast and actors were seniors — they kind of took me under my wing, and I learned so much and felt really, really accepted,” Armstrong. “I think that’s really what One Acts does — it gets new people and veterans and brings them together, and you make friendships and learn a lot of new things.”