Photo: Lincoln Crockett directing the world premier of “The Butler is Dead” at the One Act Festival at Belmont High School.
The sad tales of unclaimed luggage, a murder mystery in which the butler didn’t do it and a verbally gifted pirate in search of a special someone.
These are just a few of the productions presented this week with the return of the Belmont High School Performing Arts Company’s Student Directed One Act Play Festival taking place this Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 12-14 at 7 p.m. in the Belmont High School Black Box Theater.
Tickets can be purchased online here. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students.
The annual production is back on stage after a two-year Covid hiatus with a mix of comedy, drama and everything in between.
”One Act is a form of theater that tries to condense a message that could be conveyed in a two hour straight play or musical into 10 minutes,” said senior Lincoln Crockett who is directing the world premier of “The Butler is Dead,” by Eli Barnes, a Belmont High graduate (2019) who wrote the work to be performed in 2020 but was delayed due to the pandemic.
See the accompanying video as Crockett goes prepares his cast for the production.
For two BHS PAC veterans who have taken up the mantel of senior director, the return to One Acts now brings new outlook to the theatrical process.
Leeza Pesok is co-directing with Giulia VecchiI “Emotional Baggage,” a one act about suitcases stuck at an airport’s unclaimed baggage counter and all the trauma and problems they go through while complaining about their lives.
“Yeah, it’s a comedy,” Pesok said.
Pesok’s fellow senior, Katie Shea, is directing “Jolly Jack Junior: The Buccaneer’s Bairn” with Talia Fiore, the tale about a pirate named Willie who has been on the hunt for someone special.
Q: What’s it like to be involved with the return of one acts after two years away?
Pesok: “My freshman year in 2019, I was in a One Act as an actor. Three years go by and, out of the blue, I’m now directing one. Seeing the production from the inside-out has given me a truly unique perspective on building a show from the bottom up as a director.
Shea: I was also in one acts my freshman year and being able to direct them now has been such a rewarding experience to see a side of production of theater that I’m not normally on.”
Q: Why did you select the plays you’re directing?
Pesok: “I just spend a couple of weeks reading different plays. And then this one just sort of jumped off the page. I could really visualize it. And I still can’t forget the moment in auditions when I heard people reading the lines for the first time after reading it for so long by myself. And it was then I just knew I made the right choice. Seeing it in rehearsals and working through it, I’m just so excited for audiences to see it.”
Shea: “When [Fiore and I] found Jolly Junior, we read the script to each other in these ridiculous British accents and we couldn’t stop laughing. We knew that this play would be so fun to produce.”
Q: Unlike a standard play or musical, one acts are known for having fairly sparse staging. How do you compensate for these limitation?
Pesok: “We don’t actually have talking suitcases on stage. The script provides a little brief description for each character – a threadbare Valise from the South or a drug smuggler’s duffel bag – and then we sort of take that and incorporate some character choices and that gives the actors a chance to make the stage come alive.”
Shea: “We were lucky enough to have plenty of pirate costumes left over from “Spongebob” [BHS PACs spring musical produced last month] so that actually worked out pretty well for us. And while we did create a minimalist pirate ship, you’ll definitely get the feel that it is one.
Q: What do you want the audience to take away from your one act?
Pesok: “When you when you go through an airport, you never really think about the experiences that their bags are going through and how it must feel being carried around through your whole life. It’s cool to see all the actors connecting with different aspects of each bags life; how one was meant to go to a Realtor’s convention in Florida but got left behind and she’s so upset about it. It’s a really fun perspective to have when you just are a person and not a suitcase.”
Shea: “We’re just looking for people to have a good time and sit there and laugh for a little bit. The plot of our show is ridiculous: there’s so many made-up words in the dialogue that are supposed to be ‘pirate’ language. The actors have done an amazing job of really bringing it to life on stage. So we just hope people have fun.”
The plays include:
SURPRISE By Mark Harvey Levine
Directed by Grace Sattler
Peter’s psychic abilities are driving his date, Whitney, slowly insane.
JOLLY JACK JUNIOR: THE BUCCANEER’S BAIRN By Jeff Goode
Directed by Katie Shea and Talia Fiore
Looking for revenge, pirate Willy boards a pirate ship and demands an audience with the captain… but instead finds a secret to his past.
ALIEN MONSTER BOWLING LEAGUE By Matthew Lopez
Directed by Emily Kaiser
The arrival of Aliens is threatening Hubbard’s long reign as Bowling League Champion.
HE’S REALLY A GREAT GUY By Rory Leahy
Directed by Chris Jorgenson
Matt wants his friend Dan to get out more and meet someone special, so he sets up a double date with Heather and Annie, but Dan’s secret inner life could be a deal breaker.
1-900-DESPERATE By Christopher Durang
Directed by Claire Svetkey
Gretchen, alone on a Saturday night, impulsively calls 1-900-DESPERATE, a hotline for desperate single people. But you never know who you’ll meet on an open phone line.
EMOTIONAL BAGGAGE By Nina Shengold
Directed by Leeza Pesok and Giulia Vecchi
It’s hard to be a suitcase at the Unclaimed Baggage counter.
THE FIRST NIGHT OF CHANUKAH By Sheri Wilner
Directed by Naomi Stephenson
David Schwartz is the only jew stranded in the Devil’s Lake, North Dakota airport on the first night of Chanukah – until he encounters another traveler with a link to the (historically real) turn of the century Jewish homesteaders in North Dakota.
THE BUTLER IS DEAD By Eli Barnes (World Premier)
Directed by Lincoln Crockett
Several important guests show up to a business meeting at a fancy manor, only to find that murder occurs. *gasp* The butler must have done it…. But…. The butler is dead!