Feature Story

Plays Written, Directed, Acted by Ohio Wesleyan Students

December 2, 2014 – by Jane Suttmeier '15

Ohio Wesleyan students Brooke Waite ’16 and Reggie Hemphill ’17 rehearse a play written by Nicole Barhorst ’15 and directed by Luke Steffens ’16. The play, ‘The Truth Is,’ will be performed as part of this year’s ‘One Acts.’ (Photo by Chris MacDonald ’16)

Ohio Wesleyan students Brooke Waite ’16 and Reggie Hemphill ’17 rehearse a play written by Nicole Barhorst ’15 and directed by Luke Steffens ’16. The play, ‘The Truth Is,’ will be performed as part of this year’s ‘One Acts.’ (Photo by Chris MacDonald ’16)

Ohio Wesleyan’s Department of Theatre & Dance hosts a unique show each year called “One Acts” that combines the works and talents of students enrolled in Directing 380 and Playwriting 369.

For “One Acts,” the plays are written, directed, and acted by students. This year’s plays will be performed at 8 p.m. Dec. 5 and at 8 p.m. Dec. 6 – with different works being performed each night – on the Main Stage in Chappelear Drama Center.

Professor Bonnie Milne Gardner ’77 has spent the fall semester teaching her playwriting students “Aristotelian” structure.

The structure involves “definitions that Aristotle set down thousands of years ago that most critics and scholars still acknowledge to be the structure that’s followed primarily,” says Gardner, herself an accomplished playwright. “It is basically linear structure. Story line guides the structure of the piece, but then when students take advanced playwriting they explore other structures.”

Currently 10 students are enrolled in Playwriting 369 and six in Directing 380, which is taught by associate professor Ed Kahn. One of the upcoming plays will be directed by part-time professor Bradford Sadler ’05.

Eight scripts from the current playwriting class will be performed and directed by students. In addition, two from last year’s class will be performed. Those are plays by Haenny Park ’15 and Margaret Knecht ’14.

Gardner says she and Kahn choose each year’s scripts based on which are far enough along and viable enough for the playwrights to get them where they need to be by show time.

“The (playwrights) will feed off of what the actors and directors work in rehearsal period to help inform them on what the best choices to make are,” she says.

Theatre major Lucas Scaros ’15 had his play, “Death by Chocolate,” chosen for this year’s “One Acts.” It will be directed by theater major Christian Sanford ’16 and will star Daniel Haygood ’18 and Charlie Lennon ’18.

Scaros says he based the play on a Tumblr article and drafted two or three versions, followed by a few weeks of “fine tuning.” He describes the play as a dark comedy about “a roommate who’s trying to stop his friend with a peanut allergy from eating a Reese’s to end it all.”

“It’s still not absolutely perfect, but the actors are doing a great job with it,” Scaros says, “and (Sanford) is such a great and energetic director that I know it’s going to be great.”

So how do the directing students choose their plays? Theater major Christopher MacDonald ’16 says each student makes a list of top choices, which are “delegated accordingly” by Kahn and Gardner.

MacDonald is directing a play titled “Opening the Door,” written by Julia Stone ’16.

“I love the honesty of the play,” MacDonald says. “The relationship and the scenario have been really great to explore with. It’s an important slice of these characters’ lives unfolding in front of us.”

The directing class brings a different perspective than playwriting, and MacDonald says coming to OWU with acting experience allowed him to open up to other types of the theatrical processes.

“I was really curious about the other side of putting on a show,” he says. “Directing is such a creative challenge, and I have really enjoyed it.”

OWU chemistry professor Dan Vogt has been acting in “One Acts” since 2007 and is looking forward to his sixth show.

“The students – my fellow actors – just took me in and treated me just like one of them, which was more than I had hoped for,” he says. “It was those students, my acting partners, who asked me to audition for ‘One Acts’ the next fall. And I’ve been doing it ever since.”

This year, Vogt is in a play titled “Drum Beats,” written by Katie Patrick ’16 and directed by Sadler. Vogt plays a divorced dad, Erin Fannin ’18 plays his child, and Sarim Rahim ’17 portrays a Native American dancer.

“They all have issues,” Vogt says of the characters. “It’s always exciting and challenging to see what I can bring to my character and what my fellow actors pull out of me.”

English major Nicole Barhorst ’15 has been equally excited to see what the playwriting class has pulled from her, as she stepped outside the comfort zone of her regular writing technique.

Her play, “The Truth Is,” will be directed by Luke Steffen ’16 and acted by Reggie Hemphill ’17 and Brooke Waite ’16.

Barhorst says writing a play has been more challenging than writing essays or short stories, but she really loves the theater and is excited that “The Truth Is,” was chosen for this year’s “One Acts.”

“The Truth Is,” Barhorst says, is a comedy about a male-female couple, Sam and Johanna, in their 20s who have been together for a while and have an infant son.

“They have very different ideas about what they want for their future, and those ideas are heavily influenced by their parents and upbringing,” she says. “It’s all about how they overcome many obstacles, some funny and some serious, and decide what to do with their future.”

Hemphill, who is participating in “One Acts” for the second time, says he has enjoyed the entire process.

“I think it gives those who actually want to be directors a chance to really work in an environment where directors are starting with a script and a set of workers who are about as fresh to the script as the directors are,” Hemphill says. “It also gives people who want to write a chance to hear their work on stage.”

The actors, directors, and playwrights work together for about a month in and outside of class time to put on a great lineup of plays both nights. Admission is free. The show may contain adult themes and language. Learn more at https://www.owu.edu/academics/departments-programs/department-of-theatre-dance/.