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One-acts help theater’s image

Friday, December 7, 2007  
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By Alison Roberts

“What you are about to see is the theatrical equivalent of NASCAR.” the competition’s program said.

On Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, spectators at Oklahoma Christian University’s Judd Theatre were introduced to the art of speed theater. The inaugural Original 10-minute Play Competition featured six 10-minute long one-act plays written, directed and acted entirely by Oklahoma Christian students.

“Two months ago, students met in this very theater to discuss the guidelines of this competition,” Assistant Professor of Communication & Theatre Barrett Huddleston said.

The contest, according to Huddleston, was designed in order to demonstrate to students that the theatrical process is more than just a finite set of skills.

“Some of plays don’t give a standard, simple answer,” Huddleston said. “We wanted students to take something with them.”

A set of guidelines was given to all potential writers in order to ensure each play would convey a meaningful message.

At least one verse of scripture was to begin and end each play, and a Bible was to be used at some point during the act. Each writer was then given the freedom to apply the guidelines in whatever method he or she deemed appropriate for their individual work.

After the play was written, directors were given scripts and two weeks with which to create stage direction and perform the play.

Both nights of the performance, audience members were asked to vote for their favorite play. In addition to the audience votes, judges from the Oklahoma Christian faculty evaluated the plays based upon writing, directing and acting.

Winners of the competition were announced following the Saturday evening presentation. 

Senior Paul Mitchell won first place for writing and directing play entitled “Night and Day,” while both of junior Thomas Beard’s entries took second and third place. The second place script was entitled, “All’s Fair in Love and Philosophy” and was directed by senior Jenn Gill. In third place, “The Mystery of the Missing Meaning” was directed by sophomore Terry Thlang.

For each of the writers, inspiration for a script that would work within the guidelines came through varied channels. Senior Vicki Masten said her play about the pressures to marry before graduation was heavily influenced by the events occurring around her.

“While I was writing this, I had attended several candle lightings,” Masten said.

Alternatively, Beard chose to find a humorous premise and let the scriptural application come later.

“I started with a gimmick,” Beard said. “Then, I took the gimmick and built out of it. I asked the important questions. ‘What do they do together? How does this work spiritually?’”

Mitchell said he began the project at a bit of a loss for what verses to use.

“I woke up one morning trying to go through all the major scenes of the Bible in my head,” Mitchell said. “I didn’t get very far.”

Inspiration finally came when he heard the words, “In the beginning God created.” Instantly, he said he knew he could work with that verse as a premise.

After the two-week writing process was completed, the scripts were passed along to directors who then had two weeks in which to cast and block the plays.

“It was difficult,” Mitchell said. “Thanksgiving break fell right in the middle of our time to work with the casts.”

In response to time limitations, many of the directors said they became more flexible and entrusted a great deal of the interpretation to the actors.

“I really let the actors take on the characters themselves,” senior David Suffolk said.

Despite the pressures writers, directors and actors said they felt, the event was an overwhelming success, Mitchell said.

“I thought this was so much fun,” Mitchell said. “We were all very excited and nervous, but it paid off in the end.”

Theater Department Chair Phil Reagan indicated, at the awards portion of the show, he hoped this event would only be the first of many 10-minute play competitions designed by and for Oklahoma Christian students.

Mitchell said this will be a good way to further demonstrate and educate students on the benefits of theater rather than the pitfalls.

“I’ve heard too much criticism regarding theater either as a godless art or as a waste of time as a career,” Mitchell said. “I think that theater can truly be a vehicle to better examine ourselves as Christians.”


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