Students present one-act shows; promise twistsStudents at the River Falls High School are working feverishly toward opening night -- when the curtain goes up in their home-turf auditorium for three one-act plays produced and directed by creative-minded teens in the Drama Club.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
Students at the River Falls High School are working feverishly toward opening night -- when the curtain goes up in their home-turf auditorium for three one-act plays produced and directed by creative-minded teens in the Drama Club.
The teenage directors and crew present: “Exit,” the “Seussification of Romeo & Juliet,” and “Sherlock Holmes in Wonderland.” (Please see related sidebar for time and ticket details.)
Respective directors Emily Gjerde, a junior; Claire Stenersen, a junior; and Ally Shields, a sophomore, confirm that though students have been involved in theatrical productions before, this is the first time for an all-student group to produce, direct, and present plays. The three girls have all been members of the three-year-old Drama Club since starting high school.
The girls say the group has some adult mentors from the high school, university and the River Falls Community Theatre, including David Markson, Jean Louden, Jeff Sommerfeld, Sandra Blakeley and vocal teacher Zachary Schwalbach. The young directors attended a production class through RFCT before beginning their project.
Stenersen commented that while the group has many advisors and mentors, “It’s really students doing all the work.”
The girls said their path to directorship started in the Drama Club and led to filtering through lists of one-act plays, keeping some as possibilities and weeding out some based on length, content and production complexity.
They looked at both comedies and dramas that would be within their actors’ capabilities and would be appropriate for all ages.
Gjerde directs “Exit,” which she says is the only drama of the three. She says the story opens to people who wake up on a stage and can’t remember how they got there or how to get out. It runs about 35 minutes while the players discover odd things they all have in common.
And she says, “There’s a really big twist at the end.”
The cast of “Exit” has seven actors, and Gjerde says Ron Dune wrote the play.
Stenersen directs, “The Seussification of Romeo & Juliet,” which she says is part comedy, part parody. She said the lines of the play rhyme like Dr. Seuss’ poetry and stories.
She said, “If Dr. Seuss had written Romeo & Juliet, that’s what this play would have been.”
Stenersen’s cast includes 17 actors, and the play runs about 45 minutes.
Shields directs “Sherlock Holmes in Wonderland” and describes the storyline as the Queen of Hearts kidnapping the famed detective for a theft case in Wonderland.
“The thief has taken items important to Wonderland,” said Shields, adding that Holmes has two hours to solve the case or it’s “off with his head.”
She’s directing a cast of nine and says the comedic play has a run time of about 35 minutes. Shields also promises a good-twist ending to the story.
The girls say all three plays offer fun and understandable content for all ages. They run in this order: “Sherlock,” “Exit” then “Seussification” with an intermission after the second production.
The cast and crew are all students, with many of them fulfilling multiple roles. All of the directors are acting in one of the other plays.
Gjerde, Shields and Stenersen said they had a good response to a poster about the auditions, in which potential actors were asked to list their preferences then do cold readings from each script.
The directors think being in high school and having lots of friends helped. The students said it also seems like everyone is having fun working as a peer group, which feels different than when they’ve been a part of adult-directed productions.
Working toward opening night, the young directors expect to step up the twice weekly two-hour rehearsals to “as needed.”
Asked what’s been most fun and challenging about the student productions, Gjerde said the most challenging has been getting peers to attend rehearsal and getting everyone to listen. The most fun has been encouraging and guiding her peers who are having their first acting experience.
Stenersen said about the hardest thing, “Finding a balance between having fun and being productive.”
She doesn’t want to make people unhappy but also doesn’t want ‘bad practices’ that leave everyone feeling stressed. She said it’s been fun getting to see how people interpret the characters and brand them with a personal style.
Shields agrees it’s been difficult to maintain focus and limit side conversations during rehearsal but highly enjoyable to see what people do with their characters.
She said everyone’s been exceeding her expectations and that it’s been fun to see peers acting “normal one second and crazy the next.”
See student-driven productions
- What:One act plays “Exit,” the “Suessification of Romeo & Juliet,” and “Sherlock Holmes in Wonderland.”
- When: 7 p.m. Nov. 15, 16 and 17
- Where:River Falls High School Doris Fuka Auditorium
- Cost:Buy tickets at the door; K-12 students pay $5; adults pay $8.