Four one-act plays will be showcased for three nights starting on Oct. 20 at USD.
Students and faculty members chose which one-act plays to perform: “Lives of the Great Waitress” by Nina Shengold,” “‘Dentity Crisis” by Christopher Durang, “Baby Food” by David Lindsay-Abaire and “The Bond” by Amy Lowell and Robert Frost.
A dark twist
The first two one-act plays are being directed by students. Both are about 30 minutes long.
Senior theater and psychology major Madeline Schmidt is directing “‘Dentity Crisis.” Schmidt said she generally chooses dramas to direct, but decided to push herself with a comedy.
“I like to include my psychology background into my plays, so I looked for a psychological standpoint,” Schmidt said. “I usually do dramas, and I was told that I should expand my horizons and try some comedies. So, I found a dark comedy that deals with psychology and some humor.”
The play portrays the world through the eyes of the character Jane, who recently suffered a nervous breakdown. Schmidt said the plot can be confusing because one actor plays the brother, grandfather, father and a French count without ever changing clothes.
“What excites me most about it is portraying this crazy in a way that the audience can understand it,” Schmidt said. “It is hard to explain my play unless you see it, but it is all about honing in on this world and portraying this world to the audience.”
Written in 1978, “‘Dentity Crisis“ deals with issues still relevant to today’s society. Schmidt said she was surprised when she found out when it was written.
“My play has characters randomly changing and sex changes randomly happening,” Schmidt said. “(However the wording) of it may no longer be politically correct because it was written in 1978, but it is interesting that it deals with these issues.”
“The Bond,” is the first play produced by senior theater major Courtney Dahlberg.
Dahlberg said she was drawn to her play because of its abnormality. The characters in “The Bond” don’t interact with each other, and instead speak directly to the audience.
“One thing that drew me to this play is that it’s not realistic, it’s not a normal play,” Dahlberg said. “That is subjective of course, but the characters don’t even interact with each other. It isn’t really absurdism, but it’s different, that’s for sure.”
Similar to “‘Dentity Crisis,” Dahlberg said she feels “The Bond” deals with relevant issues.
“The writer’s work came out in the early 1900s,” Dahlberg said. “But the themes and notions that are touched still affect a lot of people to this day. To bring them to light and maybe make people realize it’s happened over time and that they are not alone is kind of what I am going for with this. Hopefully people get that.”
A comedic variety
Rebecca Bailey, an adjunct theater professor, said the one-act plays are all different, making the show a perfect opportunity for students to try out theater productions.
“One-act performances are an opportunity (for us) to take risks and try new things and work on something that might not be on the main stage,” Bailey said. “This is an action-packed evening and you can get a flavor of different things. Because we’re trying all these different things, one of them maybe (won’t be) your cup of tea, (but) wait 15 minutes and there will be something completely different.”
Bailey is directing both “Lives of the Great Waitresses” and “Baby Food.” She graduated from USD in December with an MFA in directing.
When offered the opportunity to direct, Bailey said she was excited to work with college students.
“It is the age group that I’ve trained to work with, so it was another opportunity to work with our students,” Bailey said. “I love our students here. We have some of the most amazing and wonderful students who are dedicated to what they do. I don’t go into a rehearsal where I don’t get to laugh and work hard all at the same time, which is my favorite part of the day.”
Both “Lives of the Great Waitresses” and “Baby Food” are short comedies, lasting only 15 minutes each. Bailey said they’ll get the audience’s attention.
“Baby Food” is a fast-paced comedy about a couple trying to decide who will be their newborn’s godparents. The couple unknowingly chooses a couple on the verge of divorce. Bailey said it’s like a dinner party gone wrong.
“’Baby Food’ is a comedy, but it has a lot of surprises,” Bailey said. “It is young and funny and surprising in a dark way.”
In “Lives of the Great Waitresses,” the characters talk directly to the audience. Bailey said she chose “Lives of the Great Waitresses” because it has strong female roles.
“It has four women’s roles, and oftentimes in theater I see a shortage of roles for women,” Bailey said. “These women all have really strong roles and monologues (with) really great, deep, meaty pieces. I felt like that was a really great opportunity for some of the actresses in our department.”
Opening night for the plays is Oct 20 at 7:30 p.m. The one-act plays will run from Oct. 20-22.