Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Short Comedies for Middle School

With just eight one-hour rehearsals and some scrambling to polish lines backstage, a cast of self-directed middle schoolers just pulled off fine performances of short plays that kept us laughing, adults even more than the kids.

Eighth graders chose, cast, and directed the plays. They earned the privilege by accumulating over 100 hours of quality involvement in my after-school "W.arts (Walker Arts)" Drama Team.  I paid at most $80 for scripts and royalties to any of these plays.

First up tonight was John Wooten's "The Role of Della" available from Playscripts.com. The woman sitting at the desk in the audition room puts a hopeful young actress through an ordeal involving insults, Spanish accent, Spanish accent mixed with Southern. and mime.  We have a happy resolution, and then a surprise ending.  The biggest laugh came when the audience "got it."  Eighth grader Sarah Culling chose the play and directed 8th Grader Evie Blauvelt as the actress and 6th grader Sabine Surkan in the other role.  Sarah played the role of the woman who enters near the end.

Katrin Surkan directed "Inside the Department of the Exterior" by Philip Hall, also from Playscripts.com.  A guy (played by director Katrin Surkan) needs a new mailbox; the woman at the government office (Gillian Stoltz) requires official forms to be letter-perfect.  As botched form after botched form gets ripped in pieces and thrown in the garbage, each grows frustrated with the other.  It was a tour de force for the bureaucrat, who spoke absurd bureaucratese with unrelenting clarity and earnestness.

"Family Meeting" by Dan Zolidis was directed by Brooke Baughan.  Her younger actors (6th graders all:  Isabela White as the daughter, Sophie Dietz the mom, Ronan Ezell the father) turned in wonderful performances in a play set in some absurd universe where parents can trade their daughter in for Sven the Foreign Exchange Student.  "We love you, dear," Mom says, "but, after a certain amount of time, we expect results."  Brooke got her cast to exaggerate their movements to great comic effect; it didn't seem too much. The play, from YouthPlays.com, was least expensive, most convenient.

Tanya Dadlani directed a play of her own, a play within a play within a  play:  She portrayed the student director of a script about a Mom who sets straight her daughter who wants to marry rich like Cinderella:  All wasn't happily ever after, after all.  Then, the cast rebelled, "because no punishment can be worse than being in this play."  Tanya called it "Breaking the Glass Slipper," and it got laughs in all the places she expected.

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