Teacher Voice · The English Teacher

A one-act play fest for high school

In the past few weeks, my English classes and I had been doing something I’m extremely proud of – we mounted their original dramatic pieces during our One-Act Play Festival last November 12 and 13. This was the second year our seniors did this, but our venue this year was bigger: our school theatre has a capacity of almost a thousand, with state-of-the-art lighting and sounds. As my teaching partners Edison and Ms. Mai put it, it was a venue that could drain everyone’s energy.

But our students delivered. Boy, did they ever.

The pre-production actually began last September, when we were teaching poetry. We assigned each class a short poem, such as “Fire and Ice” by Robert Frost and “Much Madness is divinest Sense—” by Emily Dickinson. In a seatwork and discussion, each class determined and synthesized everybody’s interpretations of the poem. At the same time, I asked the students to come up with a synopsis of a play based on the assigned poem to them.

The class then chose the best story. They chose a playwright – some sections ended up having two or more working on one script. Many of the sections held auditions for their characters. Then the final list of the cast and production staff was drawn up. And to make sure that the 36+ students in each class was doing something, we had the rest working on the stagecraft, original song, playbill, souvenir program, and teaser trailer.

I was very impressed by how the publicity materials turned out. Check out some of the songs composed and recorded by our students. (Edison uploaded them all.)

And this won the award for best teaser trailer.


“This Time”

Meanwhile, each play lasted from 15 to 20 minutes. We had previously taught them the rudiments of modern theater, presentational acting and staging, and expressionism. We wanted to make it clear: gone are the days of realistic theater—the fourth wall has been broken and emotions can be extended beyond dialogue, facial expression, and gesture. It was so inspiring to see them apply what they have learned. We limited their props but allowed them full use of mechanics, lights, and sounds. We have a huge white screen lit by an LED projector from the crossover, so that came in useful.

Here are some pictures from the nine classes’ productions. Credits go to Sir Ricky of our institutional communications office for taking the pics — I was backstage most of the time!

“High on Lows”, winner of best lighting and sound design (for good reason, as you can see!)
Based on Robert Frost’s “Fire and Ice”

;

“Madness”
Based on “Much Madness is divinest Sense–” by Emily Dickinson
“Oublier”
Based on Yehuda Amichai’s “Forgetting Someone”
(I loved the treatment of each scene in this play!)
“I’ll Keep You a Secret”
Based on Amy Lowell’s “The Taxi”
“Naked”
Based on “Dreams” by Langston Hughes
“You Fit Into Me”
Based on “You fit into me” by Margaret Atwood
(This was a one-scene, two-actor play with some shadow play behind the white screen, and I loved the framing of the characters all throughout.)
“All That Remains”, second runner-up, best play
Based on Matsuo Basho’s haiku, “Ah, summer grasses!”
“Slaughterhouse of Love”, winner of best script, best scenic design, best supporting actor, best direction, best costume and make-up design, and first runner-up for best play
Based on “In the slaughterhouse of love” by Rumi
(I have to say that I was impressed by how they took the poem literally and yet gave it an intelligent treatment!)
“This Time”, winner of best play. It also swept the awards for acting.
Based on “Azaleas” by Kim So Wol
(This was both hilarious and heartbreaking. A runaway winner!)

I’ve got to say, these teens are such a creative bunch. It was a joy to watch them through the process of creating something grand out of a little poetry seatwork. They constantly blew me away with their talent and ideas, from conceptualizing their story, and coming up with subtle symbols for their props and scenic design; to managing and directing their classmates, and refining their acting.

They say that teachers ought to inspire students – but I think I speak for my fellow teachers when I say that it is the students themselves who inspire us, many times over; it is they who keep us going. 🙂

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3 thoughts on “A one-act play fest for high school

  1. GAHHHH omigoodness, Ms Fiilllll, I miss One-Act Play Fest somethin fierce :)) HANDS DOWN my favorite part of my Zobel English Class life, hee :))

    On another note, sosyal, CPA :))

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