Students take over for the WHHS One Acts Festival


Nazret Degaulle

Students rehearse their lines for the Senior High One Acts that will be shown on Dec. 3 and Dec. 4.

WHHS Students partaking in the One Acts Festival are currently rehearsing diligently for their upcoming performances from Dec. 2 to Dec. 4.

This is the fourth edition of the One Acts Festival at WHHS.

The One Acts consist of two SENIOR high and two junior high student-directed plays. Students can write, design, manage and direct every aspect of their performance.

“The students do all of the work,” student director, Oran Wilkins, ‘24, said. “We take our own show, we present our own show, we cast our own show, we design our own show; we do everything.”

Many students taking part in the One Acts noted that being directed by their peers was different compared to other shows they have taken part in.

“It’s a lot less intimidating,” Jennifer Kiefer, ‘27, said.

Not only are the One Acts less stressful for students because fellow students lead them, but practices are also less intense.

“Since they’re shorter shows there’ll be less lines to memorize and less pressure,” student director Avery Frank, ‘23, said. Frank is the director for the Senior High One Act, Home of Overgrown Weeds.

Rehearsals take place just every other day, in contrast with the other shows the WHHS theater department puts on that rehearse nearly everyday. This is because the One Acts are smaller shows. However, Frank notes that as the performance dates grow closer, rehearsals will get longer.

“It’ll become more of a time commitment as it goes on,” Frank said. “So it’s putting it all together and just working really hard at it for a longer time and doing multiple runs in one day.”

While the One Acts are relatively less intense compared to other shows, students still have a great deal of responsibility. However, these responsibilities are also a way for students to become exposed to a new outlook in the world of theater.

“So the starting of the festival was to give students an opportunity to direct, which gave more students opportunities to design and stage manage,” drama teacher, Helen Raymond-Goers, commonly referred to as RG by students, said.

Since many students have wanted to become more involved in theater, when the WHHS theater program got the idea to put on the One Acts Festival from the Thespian Society five years ago, students were excited to take part.

However, at that time the WHHS theater program was doing a five-show season, meaning they had to make room for the student-directed productions. So, the teachers made the decision to replace the junior high play.

“So the One Acts Festival took the place of what used to be the junior high play with two junior high plays in the festival.” RG said.

RG mentions that the WHHS theater program is preserving the One Acts because teachers and the students feel it is ultimately worth it.

“I think it’s a benefit to education. I mean, we’re educational theater, if somebody wants to direct we want to give them that opportunity,” RG said.

Students get the unique opportunity to become fully immersed in the theatre production process.

“The only way to really learn how to [direct] is to do it. You can study all the theory you want, but until you actually are in charge of a group full of people trying to execute your vision, you’re not directing,” RG said.

Since students take charge for the One Acts, the theater teachers, Michael Sherman and RG take on minimal responsibilities and only act as mentors for students.

“What makes the One Acts different is it’s all student led so the teacher is only there for supervision and to make sure nothing goes horribly wrong,” Wilkins said.

Along with supervision, the teachers are there to answer any questions, provide feedback and watch the show once rehearsals are further along. RG and Sherman are also around anytime there is a rehearsal to step in if needed.

“Every show has problems, whether it’s a blocking problem, and it’s not working or an actor isn’t learning their lines or which happens, or any number of other things that can go wrong for our show. It’s our job to step in, see how we can help fix it.” RG said.

Ultimately, these student-produced productions mean a lot to the teachers.

“We want our reputation to be carried through to our student directed productions,” RG said.

The One Acts Festival requires much preparation before rehearsals can begin. Students and teachers begin these preparations in March with the application process.

Directors must submit a show based on that year’s theme, which is announced in February. Sherman and RG then judged them on many criteria, including how well their show reflects the theme. The theme connects all the theatre’s shows for the year to each other. This year, the theme is the concept of “light” and “brevity”.

Students get the opportunity to direct a show for the WHHS One Acts Festival. “I love handing off the work entirely to students,” drama teacher Helen Raymond-Goers said. (Nazret Degaulle)

“Coming off of last year, when life was heavy, we did not want to do a heavy season as well. So we kept things pretty comedic,” RG said.

The theme is reflected in all the theatre’s productions throughout the year, including Rhinoceros, which was recently shown from Nov. 11 to Nov. 13.

However, aspiring student directors do not have to write their own shows.

“Last year when I found out I could be a student director, I went onto the internet just trying to find a bunch of different shows I could do,” Wilkins said.

Wilkins decided on directing the show entitled, The Internet is Distract- OH LOOK A KITTEN!

“I was going for comedy to bring us out of COVID,” Wilkins said.

A while after Sherman and RG decided which shows would make up the festival, they began auditioning and casting.

Wilkins describes the casting process as “nerve-wracking but really fun at the same time.”

Prospective actors and actresses found out about auditions in many ways, including, via Schoology, drama class, or posters.

“Basically, you put your name and a bunch of stuff about you like your height, look and stuff like that, and then you would select an audition slot,” Smyth said.

The group of aspiring actors and actresses would wait in the theater wing of the school until they were each called down.

“They would give you part of the script, and they would assign roles to different people, and you would act out the role and you would do that for [each of the] two different plays,” Smyth said.

After auditions, students have to wait about a week to hear if they have gotten a part in a One Act.

“There was an announcement on the Walnut Hill school website that said who got called back and for what part and the next day, you would come back,” Smyth said.

The call-back process was very similar to the first auditioning process.

“They would send you up to the room until you’re called back down for your next [callback]. Every time I was called back down, I was really nervous that they were going to tell me to leave,” Kiefer said.

A while later, students who made it into the One Acts got an email saying what part they had received and when rehearsals would take place.

On the first day of rehearsals, the Junior High One Acts played icebreaker games so that the cast could all become accustomed to one another. They also talked through the script.

“As soon as everyone was cast, we started to hustle immediately because we only have two months until showtime at that point,” Wilkins said.

The Senior High One Acts also has a read-through for their first rehearsals.

Frank says they did this so that everyone can “just get a feel for the show.”

Currently, both of the senior High and junior high One Acts are working on blocking and finishing memorizing lines.

Frank defines blocking as, “just making the stage directions and [deciding] where you want people to enter, and where you want people to cross the stage and have interactions with other people on the stage- just kind of like how it looks to the audience.”

The next step for Frank is to run through the entire show with blocking.

“We’ll run through it a couple times and record it and put it on the internet, so they [the actors] can like practice,” Frank said.

For Junior High, Wilkins mentions that until this point, they have been working on slowly walking through the show. Wilkins plans to run through the entire script in the coming weeks.

“We’re gonna be doing the full show all at once with props, costumes, and sound lighting set,” Wilkins said.

Wilkins says that incorporating those aspects of the full show will help actors because the blackbox, where the show will be set, is much bigger than “that tiny corner that is being used right now”.

“​​I think we are going to move to the blackbox eventually, which is where we’re actually doing it,” Jonas Warner, ‘27, said. “They’ve given me a small tour of the theater area. So I’ve seen the black box but only once.”

Rehearsing with little reference to what the end result will look like, has proven tough for Warner.

“For now, it’s just kind of hard to imagine what we’re doing, like in a nice picture,” Warner said.

As the performance dates grow closer, students and teachers are becoming excited for show day to come.

“I haven’t watched any of this year’s performances yet so I’m really excited because the scripts are really good,” RG said.

When asked what her favorite part of the One Act Festival is, RG said, “I love handing off the work entirely to students. They always surprise me and how good they are, especially our first-time directors. It’s always surprising how seamlessly their shows fit in with those that Sherman and I directed, and we’ve got decades of experience; that’s my favorite thing, just watching our students do wonderful work.”