Longview theater buffs can get a sneak peek at the future of local acting at the One Act Festival Showcase, starring exclusively high school students.
Four groups of actors from three different Southwest Washington and Oregon high schools — two ensembles from R.A. Long and one each from Clatskanie and Washougal — will perform one-act plays this weekend at Stageworks Northwest.
All of these groups previously competed in the One-Act Play Festival competition, which took place Saturday. There, the four schools performed in front of a team of judges, who were instructors from local community college drama programs.
Event organizer Jennifer Cheney said this was intentional, calling the festival a “headhunting, matchmaking situation.”
“What we are doing is investing in the future of our area,” she said. “Not everybody can afford a four-year university, but I wanted (the students) to see what quality education was available on a community college level in our area.”
One of the plays, Wahkiakum High’s “Wishing Moon,” is an original work written by the school’s drama advisor. The production, which won the Judges’ Choice for Best Overall Play award Saturday, focuses on a high school student dealing with the death of a peer.
The other two dramas center around intense topics as well, from Washougal’s “An Undisclosed Location,” about a cure for malaria accidentally resulting in many deaths due to a side affect, to R.A. Long’s “The Empty Chair,” about addiction and substance abuse recovery.
Cheney said she was impressed with the high schoolers digging into plays with such serious subjects.
“All of these plays are dealing with meaty social issues, and they’re challenging scenes for kids to tackle,” she said. “This is a lot for them to bite off and chew, and they did it ambitiously, every one of them.”
Even the lone comedy, R.A. Long’s “Wurzel Flummery” (written by “Winnie the Pooh” author A.A. Milne), presents a challenge due to its flowery Victorian-era dialogue, Cheney said.
“That is a period piece, which is a huge undertaking for novice actors,” Cheney said of “Wurzel.” These are younger kids, and there’s a lot of language issues with something like that.”
According to Cheney, Lower Columbia College previously hosted an identical act “for many years” on its campus until 2006, when it tore down its old arts building to make room for its new Rose Center. Cheney said she even met her husband, Michael, at the 1987 festival.
Cheney and her husband resurrected the program this year with the help of Stageworks Northwest, which included it in its fringe lineup. She said she invited schools and colleges within a 50-mile radius of Longview, and although many couldn’t attend, “we received positive feedback from several schools that were unable to participate, and excitement from those that were.”
The showcase organizer said she was proud of the high school students participating in the one-act festival revival and remains optimistic about the program’s future.
“The kids were all very professional, very respectful of each other (and) we got lots of good feedback from people wanting to comeback in future years,” Cheney said. “I am definitely hoping we continue this, at least every other year.”