This October, The Dennis Lane Memorial One Act play series, performed in Marinello Little Theatre at John Carroll University, will hit the stage. The Carroll News had the opportunity to speak with Assistant Professor for the Tim Russert Department of Communications and Theatre Arts and Producing Director of Theatre, Keith Nagy and the two student directors for the performances, senior Zak Zippert and alumna Robin Weaver.
CN: For people who are not familiar with theatre, how do the One Act performances compare to a normal theater production?
Keith Nagy: They’re short plays. They are usually no more than 45 minutes in length. There is a notoriously shorter play that is added that lasts about ten minutes.
CN: What are the Dennis Lane Memorial One Acts about?
KN: The student-directed one-acts here at John Carroll University are a whole series designed by the theater department to have students direct, produce and design one-act plays. The students directors get to pick their plays and are usually a type of comedy. Every once in a while, we have a darker show, but for the most part they are comedies. It is up to the student to coordinate, run it and supervise other students. We usually use published plays. However, every once in a while, we do get a student writer.
Robin Weaver: The Dennis Lane One Acts are a series of one-act shows (shows without an intermission, typically 10 to 60 minutes long) performed in the Marinello Little Theatre. Last fall, we introduced the Dennis Lane ‘77 Memorial Student Directed One Acts at Marinello Little Theatre to honor the life of Lane, an active member of the theatre community at Carroll. Being a part of either series is such an honor – we get to continue the legacy left behind by John Carroll theatre greats. Zak’s shows are considered part of that series, while mine is a Marinello One Act (as I am a guest artist).
CN: Who are the directors and writers for the Fall 2015 performances?
KN: This time around, we have Zak Zippert, a senior who is doing his directing project for the theater minor, and the other is being directed by alumna Robin Weaver. They are both directing plays with a “Bashing the Bard” theme. Zak is directing two plays and the second play that he is directing is a short, one person one-act because his first one-act is a little on the shorter side. His shows are titled “Tiny Dreams” and “Dost Pity Thee Withpett,” while Robin’s show is called “An Actor’s Nightmare.”
CN: What is your responsibility as a student director?
Zak Zippert: My duties are to interpret the script. Like with movies and their directors, everyone interprets a script differently. My job is to get the actors to portray what I see when I read the script onto the stage, whether that may be telling them how to act or a different way of saying something. My goal is to get my vision from when I read the script onto the stage.
RW: As the director, my job is to block the show by creating movement paths, guide character choices and oversee costuming and lighting. I’m in charge of running rehearsals and making sure that everything looks good, in a nutshell.
CN: Is there a common theme within these One Act performances?
KN: Both of them, “Dost Pity Thee Withpett?” and “An Actor’s Nightmare,” satirize a little bit of Shakespeare and they are also satirizing modern situations throughout the performance. “Tiny Dreams,” the third play, is a one-woman show about a Russian actress talking about her days on the stage.
ZZ: When Professor Nagy told me that Robin was doing a Shakespeare satire, I thought I would hop on the bandwagon and when I read “Dost Pity Thee Withpett?” it jumped out at me. It really caught my attention with its style of humor.
RW: Both of our plays are farces and they make fun of a lot of different plays. Zak’s focuses on Shakespeare and mine makes fun of different classical literature pieces such as “A Man for All Seasons,” “Checkmate” and “Hamlet.” Both of our plays are about turning classical theater into more accessible theater.
CN: What makes these shows different or unique compared to previous JCU theatre performances?
KN: The whole One Act series is unique because they are mostly comedies, they are directed by the students and they also serve as part of the students’ projects academically.
ZZ: What makes “Tiny Dreams” different is that it is a one-person show, which, in my four years at JCU, has not been seen before. It is a different challenge as a director to only work with one actor. Being a director of two shows is also new to for JCU theater, and, according to Professor Nagy, nobody has done this before. Reading the scripts, I could envision people at JCU acting in these shows and I could envision how it would be seen on Marinello stage.
RW: My show “The Actor’s Nightmare” has actually been performed at JCU before. My directorial decisions and the performances of my wonderful cast differentiate from the past performance and bring something new and exciting to the show. In a more general sense, the three one-acts being performed this semester are more farcical than other one acts performed in recent history, which is great. They’re a very smart kind of funny.
CN: What do you like best about being a director and working on these shows?
ZZ: I just love being in the theater. I started acting in third grade and I have done everything in theater since then, like acting, stage crew, lights, sounds and all that stuff. Directing has been a new challenge that I haven’t been able to do before. I like facing challenges and directing my peers is definitely a challenge.
RW: I love working with the students. I have such a talented cast coming from all levels and acting backgrounds. Seeing them interact and grow as actors is amazing. They make my job easy because they’re so willing to work and take my direction. My stage manager is awesome as well. This show has a lot of challenging parts and it wouldn’t be possible to pull off if she wasn’t so good. As an alum, it’s also great to be back working in this space.
CN: What would you like to say to JCU students that may want to get more involved with theatre and these shows?
KN: Later this semester, we are also producing “Six Characters in Search of an Author,” and then next semester we will also be doing some one-act plays and I am also directing “Sweet Charity,” a musical for the Kulas shows. Students who want to become involved can audition for any of these shows.
Editor’s Note: The fall 2015 Dennis Lane Memorial One Acts will be performed on Oct. 22, 23, and 24 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 25 at 2 p.m.