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New work debuts on Playhouse stage for One-Acts Festival

The+cast+of+one-act+musical+%E2%80%9CThe+Butler+Convention%E2%80%9D+perform+at+a+spacing+rehearsal+on+April+12.+
The cast of one-act musical “The Butler Convention” perform at a spacing rehearsal on April 12.

The cast of one-act musical “The Butler Convention” perform at a spacing rehearsal on April 12.

Photo by Nicole Pampena

Photo by Nicole Pampena

The cast of one-act musical “The Butler Convention” perform at a spacing rehearsal on April 12.

Written By Nicole Pampena, Co-Features Editor

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For students enrolled in the conservatory’s advanced directing course, the end of the semester means more than just finals week; it means directing and debuting an entire one-act play or musical in just under two months.

The Raymond Laine Memorial One-Acts Festival showcases entirely student-run productions, where directors develop their show with little supervision from faculty and mentors.

The class was originally taught by Raymond Laine, a founding member of the Pittsburgh Playhouse’s professional equity company, the REP. Laine organized One-Acts as a project in his class that grew in popularity. After his death in 2000, the project continued under a tribute to his name.

This semester, One-Acts will feature all new and original work submitted by Point Park students and local Pittsburgh playwrights.

“We thought it was a great idea for them to have the experience working with a living writer because that is an important skill set to have as a director,” Sheila McKenna said, the theatre department chair and associate professor of advanced directing. “I wanted them to have that experience.”

McKenna and her students solicited work from the university’s playwriting class, faculty members and even the cinema program in addition to the local community, although anyone was welcome to submit. After vetting through a considerable number of submissions and discussing personal favorites in class, the directors chose their production and got to work right after spring break.

The full show includes a total of four plays and one musical, two of which written by current students.

Senior acting major Shannon Felletter directs a movement piece titled “Still” by Alexandra Williams.

“I started directing before I came to school,” Felletter said. “I tried to learn as much as I can about theatre, so I have options.”

Felletter began her One-Acts career crewing as a freshman, which led to auditioning to perform in it and eventually becoming a director in her final year at Point Park. Aside from students enrolled in advanced directing, participation is on a voluntary basis.

“Directors have their sequence of prerequisites for directing and directing studies,” McKenna said, “so they need a year of studying fundamentals. After that, there’s a process of application and interview, in which then a group is selected to go into advanced directing. Those directors are the One-Acts directors.”

Another show, “The Butler Convention,” directed by junior acting major Adam Rossi, hails from New York-based writers David Mahokey and Josh Shapiro. The production is the only musical in the show this semester and only the second musical ever featured in One-Acts.

“I really was looking to do a musical,” Rossi said. “Besides what we have to take as an acting major, I don’t take any music classes … so for the music stage of production I wasn’t much of a help, but I have great team around me.”

McKenna credits the show’s strong sense of teamwork for its minimal problems and challenges.

“All of this comes down to communication,” McKenna said. “No project is perfect, but that’s part of the learning experience. When you have students learning how to make theatre together, that’s very important that they learn the importance of communication.”

Despite already beginning to incorporate playwriting students into One-Acts, McKenna hopes to expand even further across multiple theatre majors in the future, eventually going outside of the conservatory and possibly incorporating sports, arts and entertainment management students to establish an entirely student-run theatre company.

Within the theatre department, both Felletter and Rossi noted that their experiences directing have improved their skills as actors in turn.

“You really learn what it’s like for people on the other side of the table,” Rossi said. “You learn so much about life in general when you study the opposite and see things from someone else’s point of view.”

“It’s really fulfilling to put out what you want to see and have it happen,” Felletter said. “And when it successfully happens, it feels really good, even better than your own acting.”

The show runs from Friday, April 21st through Sunday, April 23rd and begin at 8 p.m. at the Playhouse Studio Theater. Two matinée performances will be held on Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are free and can be reserved at the box office.

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New work debuts on Playhouse stage for One-Acts Festival