Urban’s One Acts adapt to new, virtual format

Alex Stross, Staff Writer

Everyone knows and loves the One Acts festival, an Urban theater tradition that takes place every year during the spring term. Seniors write and direct their own single-act plays that their fellow Urban students perform in. Despite Urban’s decision to continue virtual school for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year, the One Acts Festival will still go on this year.
“Audiences should expect to see a number of different formats. There’s radio plays, there’s Zoom plays, and there are more edited video pieces,” said John Warren, Theater Director and teacher of the One Acts class. As for the video pieces, Warren said that “all the different directors are making different choices around the level of editing they want to do, and how spontaneous they want it to look.”
Elizabeth Edwards, ‘20, acted in the past two years of One Acts, and is now a director and writer in this year’s production. “We have to abandon some of the techniques for directing that we would’ve used in the theater and redirect our focus a bit,” Edwards said. “We have to do a lot more rewriting, and we have to do a lot more innovating because we’d never done anything like this.”
The One Acts writers and directors are responsible for converting their plays to digital performances. For the radio plays, Warren says that “a big challenge is to make sure you’re providing enough context, both through the actors’ voices and through sound cues added in.” He also says that senior directors had “already written plays that were intended for the stage. And then suddenly they got thrown this curveball of how do we not just throw our scripts out, but somehow honor what these scripts are and convert them to a whole different medium that they weren’t written for.” As for the more personal side of One Acts, Warren said that “the rehearsals have way less of that community feel,” and that they “end up losing the whole fun of live performance.”
Edwards agrees that “while everyone has been really enthusiastic about finding new stuff to do, there is still a certain sadness to things that just can’t work.”
Although the online format has been a hurdle for One Acts writers and directors, they have managed to make the best of their situations. Edwards said “we’re actually learning something new every time about what it means to do theater in this online space.”
Warren added by saying that performing virtually, “also means you’re not having to deal with staging issues.” The biggest benefit Warren predicts is that he thinks “it’s going to be easier for people to participate as audience members, because you get to simply log onto your computer at home” instead of “having to plan your whole evening around it.” He suggested that “It’s entirely possible people who might not have come to the One Acts will now not see that barrier to joining it.”
This year’s One Acts Festival writers, directors, and cast members have been working especially hard to put the show together, given the many challenges of not being able to meet in person. “They really stepped up and persevered, and although it wasn’t what we initially signed up to create, this is going to be really special and personal,” said Edwards.