It seemed as if no one was going to show for the Studio theatre’s one-act plays written by students from Dr. Daniel Cleary’s Playwriting for Stage and screen course. Only five audience members waited. That is until a few minutes before the shows when suddenly a wave of people filled half the seats. David Hansen, director of the production and playwright of Great Lakes Theater welcomed the audience as the biggest audience they’ve ever had for a playwriting group.
The first act, “Spontaneous Tom” was written by second place winner, Emily Buttita, and performed by Great Lake’s Theater’s Surround outreach program. Buttita wrote a sentimental story of a young man named Victor, played by Michael Silverstein, who is trying to sort out [why he finds himself in a predicament] with the woman he loves. Along comes Tom, an elderly gentleman played by Hansen, who decides to join Victor, and in the process offers a plethora of advice on how to be more spontaneous with his woman. Tom shares the story of the woman he once loved, Clara. James Rankin and Khaki Hermann act out the younger versions of Tom and Clara, recalling their momentous meeting where they collided into each other at college, spilling books across the floor in the process.
Clara is feisty and keeps Tom on his toes. With their very first meeting, Clara lets Tom know how he should behave towards women. “If you want me, prove it,” Clara scolds as she grabs her books and begins to leave. Tom pleads, “How?” As Clara continues walking away she shouts, “Figure it out.” The spotlight brings us back to the present with Tom and Victor cracking a few jokes. Tom’s admission that he never married Clara or had children with her has Victor confused. Is the bouquet in Tom’s hands a way for him to be spontaneous and win Clara back? What Victor learns is that Tom didn’t just let Clara go. He lost her, leaving the audience to understand that she passed away. Tom married someone else and had children with her. Slowly Tom hands Victor the flowers. With an exchange of names, Tom leaves Victor in which Victor calls the woman he loves.
The second act, “The Cracks in Our Foundations,” written by first place winner Krista Price is about three friends sharing a comical relationship. Andrew (Silverstein) and Beth played by Chennelle Bryant-Harris, are on their way to Ian’s house, (Rankin) but have no clue as to why they’ve been asked over. With their arrival they find that arrive they find that Ian wants them to fix a crack in his wall. They first refuse, but Ian buys their help with pizza and cheap tasteless beer. They begin to fix the wall, throwing sarcastic remarks at each other. Andrew mentions a crush he has on a girl cashier. Beth is surprised as she describes what the cashier’s eyes look like. “She good people,” Beth mentions bewildered, trying to smooth the crack in the wall.
When Andrew leaves the room, Beth nails Ian for having a crush on Andrew. She isn’t the person to tell him what to do, and it doesn’t matter to her whether Ian tells Andrew or not. It comes as a bit of a surprise when Ian does tell Andrew upon his return in the room. Ian holds Andrew’s hand and admits, “I love you.” However, the reaction Ian was hoping for doesn’t happen. With obvious discomfort, Andrew leaves the room. Understanding his hurt, Beth runs up to Ian hugs him. “I’m so sorry,” said Beth. Together they hold onto each other and stare straight ahead, “I can still see the crack,” states Ian as the scene ends white.
Following the performances, Hansen and fellow actors lined the stage, ready for a Q and A with the audience on either the acting or playwriting process. Buttita and Price shared their enjoyment watching their writing come to life. One audience member asked if others read it aloud, Price responded, “Yes. Having our fellow classmates read our work helped with the revision process.” Buttita also mentioned that even more exciting was seeing it performed. “You have a pre-conceived idea in your head, but seeing it live and fresh was better for me,” said Buttita.
The actors were limited to two hours for blocking both plays. “We had a little over a week to read and be familiar with the scripts,” said Hermann. The actors also found it beneficial to have the plays written in a concentrated fashion for establishing the characters. It helped them to grasp the characters right away.
Buttita and Price had their pictures taken with the actors and director/playwright, David Hansen after the Q and A session. Overall Buttita and Price were proud of seeing their writing come to life, and Great Lakes Theater’s surround outreach program was proud of the two young writers and encouraged students pursuing writing to keep creating.