'Battle of the One Acts' going virtual for auditions, end product

Category:  The Arts
Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020 at 11:46 AM

Just as classes have had to adapt to online platforms this semester, clubs will have to do the same if they want to thrive, including Edinboro’s theater groups.    

There are three theatre clubs on campus: University Players, Alpha Psi Omega and Dramatic Activities, all of which share Dr. William Hunter as their faculty advisor. Both University Players and Dramatic Activities are open to all students, while Alpha Psi Omega is part of the National Theater Honors Society.

All three clubs take turns hosting events, with the University Players organizing the annual “Battle of the One Acts!.” They're currently holding virtual auditions for the fall production, while the end product will then be filmed and released on Facebook this semester. 

“One Acts!” is a series of plays that are selected from works originally submitted by Edinboro students and faculty in Spring 2020. In order to decide which plays were going to be included, scripts were turned into Hunter in May. From the scripts they received, they selected a few to perform. Hunter explained that the directors did decide to add one additional play that was not an original; it was selected because “from the description of it, it sounds like one production with individual people talking, so it might be easier for them to do without actually getting together (physically).”   

While the theater clubs have been working on and promoting “One Acts!” since May, they have reorganized the productions several times. Even now, there is still uncertainty regarding how the leaders will actually be directing the shows. Despite the roadblocks they have encountered, they have decided to begin hosting auditions virtually. 

The auditions for “One Acts!” were set to take place through Zoom from Aug. 24-28 but were extended until Sept. 4 to encourage more people to join. Mila Wells, the head director for all of  “One Acts!,”  said they’ve been going relatively well so far.   

“We’ve only had one little hiccup with one person, and we were able to figure it out pretty quickly,” said Wells. “We’ve got all the directors together on the call, and we set things up ahead of time to make sure we’re all ready, and then we’ll admit the person who is auditioning — then just go through the audition process.”  

Though Wells is the overall director, each individual play involved in “One Acts!” has its own personal director that works under her. “Three of the directors are in charge of longer plays, and the fourth is doing a series of monologues that we’re going to be having,” she said. “We won’t have a ton of monologues, but it will be nice to have them to split up the larger chunks.”  

Despite the success of the auditions, Wells mentioned the number of students turning up has been lower than usual. She explained, “normally with ‘One Acts!,’ we try to use this show to get as many freshmen and newcomers in as possible." They’ve extended the auditions an additional week, until Sept. 4, in order to get as many performers in as possible.  

One benefit of the online auditions is that anyone can audition, no matter if they are currently living on or off campus. Hunter also mentioned that their cast and crew can extend beyond Edinboro — to campus alumni or even further.  

“We often have people who have graduated and miss it (the theater), and have time, and they’ve come back to audition,” said Hunter. “They’ve opened up auditions to just about anyone. We can have auditions from anywhere in the world, both related and not related to Edinboro. We do have a rule that it needs to be at least 50% Edinboro people — students and faculty.”  

Once they've finished with the auditions, the “One Acts!” will move to online rehearsals. Wells says the practices and the performance of the “One Acts!” varies from play to play.

“It really depends on each show. With 'One Acts' being so varied in how each of the stories are being told, some of them can be done over Zoom,” she explained. “One of the plays in particular has to be done in person, so it’s been a little bit tricky finding people for that one that are OK with meeting in person, have the ability to meet in person, [and] know each other so they know everything is safe. But for the most part, we’re doing everything over zoom.”  

University players meet every Sunday, but the different plays will have varying practice times. Wells mentioned, “the director will set up a time with the actors, whatever works best for them, and they’ll each be doing things on their own. I’ll go in and check in on each of the groups as they’re going to make sure that they’re on track, but it’s all relatively individual.”  

All of “One Acts!” will be filmed and put together into one large video. Hunter explained: “It’s actually going to be more like a film than a theater production this year.” Wells mentioned each show has a date to be recorded, and there's a date for publishing the recordings. All the performances will be published in one video online on Sept. 27, on the theater’s Facebook page, which can be found at facebook.com/EdinboroUniversityTheatre.  

Due to the move of the plays onto an online platform, the stage crew has not been as actively involved as they would typically be. “Right now, we haven’t really been in touch with the stage crew. We are going to try to find a way to get them involved in some way or another,” said Wells. “I’m currently finding videos online of acting tips and things about lighting and staging that I’m going to be posting onto the Facebook page for people to look at, so there will be something for them to be involved with hopefully.” 

Given the circumstances, the production will end up being a thrifty one for the group. “All of these one acts are student written, and that cuts down on costs because we don’t have to pay performance fees for them," said Hunter. “Also, we won’t have the theater, which means we won’t really have sets that we would usually need to take care of."  But on that same end, the online release of “One Acts!” means they won’t have their usual ability to charge people to see the production.

Hazel Modlin is the Arts Editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at ae.spectator@gmail.com.

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