by Gennette Cordova
On a bare stage, three actors, attached by a long rope, stand distanced from one another in the shape of a triangle.
“Why can’t people just do exactly what I want, when I think it? Is it really so hard?” demanded Katie Dec, her voice sending a booming echo through the empty Syre Theater.
Dec is one-third of the cast of “Slice”, one of seven plays scheduled to be performed at Whatcom’s Spring Playwright’s Festival.
“This is the first year that we’ve done the festival,” said director Shawn Fuller. “We realized that there were a lot of Whatcom students who liked to write.”
Fuller, who typically directs the spring productions in addition to teaching drama, along with drama teacher and drama club advisor Gerry Large, put out a call for original scripts written by Whatcom students.
“It was a blind submission,” said Fuller. “I didn’t know who wrote what.”
Ultimately, seven of the student-written, one-act plays submitted were selected to be showcased in the four-day festival, produced by the school’s drama club.
Fuller and Large held auditions for student actors during the last few weeks of winter quarter. The auditions took place during the day in their acting classes as well as in the evenings, allowing every student the opportunity to try out.
Most of the students selected to perform at the festival have participated in productions at Whatcom in the past. However, many of them are not members of the drama club.
The plays range between two and three cast members, and 10 to 30 minutes. Beyond differences in casts and durations, each play presents a different story and tone.
“I’ve got a piece where suicide is personified as a young woman,” said Fuller. “And then we’ve got a highly comedic piece, and a couple of very serious dramas. So it’s a real mixture for the evening.”
The students rehearsing “Slice,” written by Nathan Dodge, who is currently producing another original piece of his at the iDiOM Theater, will be performing an expressionistic piece where they will be attached by a string, said Fuller.
The nearly-overwhelming feeling of angst delivered by the cast was dissipated every couple of minutes when Fuller paused the scene to give direction. The cast worked through a wide range of details, from the precise timing of their eye contact to the sequences of their steps across the stage.
“Think of this as a dance,” said Fuller, directing their movements. “It’s just like you’re learning a new dance.” Each cast typically rehearses with Fuller for two hours approximately once a week.
“The Ambivalent Poet” writer, Austin Giles, says that his play is based on a “slightly” real experience from a poem that he wrote.
“I realized that I could develop and entire play from the poem,” said Giles, 22. “I wrote it in one night. It’s the first thing I’ve ever had performed.”
The other plays featured at Spring Playwright’s Festival are “Denour” by Trevor Van Houten, “Encounters” by Devin Littlefield, “Flirting with Suicide” by Connor Vis, “Masks and Literature” by Sandi Coughlin and “The Playwright” by Brandon Boatman.
“It’s going to be extremely entertaining,” said Fuller. “You’re going to get to see a lot of different styles all at once and you’re going to get to do that in about 95 minutes, which is something you don’t often get to do.”
The production will begin at 7:30 p.m., running from May 18 through May 21. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $6 with your student ID.
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