On Friday, the audience for Masque and Gown’s One Act Play Festival filled all eighty folding chairs in the Drake Lobby of Pickard Theater, with an overflow audience watching from the balcony.
“I was really excited that so many people came,” said Sinclaire Ledahl ’23, Masque and Gown’s artistic director.
The plays were “A Day at the Game” written by Michael Gordon ’25, “Space Junk,” written by Kat Daley ’22 and “There’s no ‘I’ in Divorce” written by Lily Randall ’23. Each play had one or two student directors and four to five actors. After the performances, the audience voted “A Day at the Game” as the best script, and Gordon received $100 in prize money.
“I really love the agency that is given to students when we do productions that are fully student created,” Ledahl said. “You can decide that you want to be the lighting designer or you can decide that you want to direct. And for the writers, they can be like, ‘I have this script that I wrote in my room over break and I want to see it performed.’”
The scripts were submitted after winter break, and Masque and Gown chose three acts before sending out a call for directors. The directors held auditions and the casts rehearsed for a week before the show.
“It’s pretty snappy,” Ledahl said. “For One Acts we are pretty specific about having the writer not be a part of the directing process because One Acts is a play-writing competition. We want to make sure the words on the page exist as they are.”
Kat Daley ’22 wrote “Space Junk” during the pandemic, inspired by watching The Sopranos and listening to a space podcast. This is her second play written for One Acts.
“Seeing the directors in action was so cool,” Daley said. “It is a very amazing thing that so many people get to participate on so many levels of the creative process”
Clay Wackerman ’22 directed the winning script, “A Day at the Game.”
“This was my first time directing a play, so I had no idea what to expect,” Wackerman said. “A lot of my directorial decisions were inspired by the actors, whose comedic instincts surprised and delighted me. During rehearsal, we’d often experiment with different emotional arcs, rhetorical deliveries, physical gestures and on the practical end, the many ways to stack people in a trench coat.”
Livia Kunins-Berkowitz ’22 and Emma Dewey ’22, the directors of “There’s No ‘I’ in Divorce,” got involved to take advantage of the creative opportunity and work on something together.
“It’s just always so cool to witness the journey of a play from a script to the stage,” Kunins-Berkowitz said.
Both directors also really enjoyed getting to know their cast.
“They were all so enthusiastic and easy to work with, and it was really rewarding to watch them grow more comfortable in the roles and bring Lily’s play to life with them,” Dewey said.
Compared to other theater productions, The One Act Festival is a relatively small time commitment, which encourages students to get involved who may not otherwise be motivated.
“Random people show up and come out of the woodworks both to watch and to act,” Ledahl said.
“I liked seeing people who I know are really into acting and people who I know who don’t really act to all be a part of this,” said attendee Atticus McWhorter ’22.
Kate Walsh ’22 had never acted before, but she auditioned after friends’ encouragement and because she wanted to try something new for spring of her senior year. She was cast in “There’s No ‘I’ in Divorce,” portraying a hungover friend.
“The day before auditions, or the day of, I was like, okay, fine, I’ll audition,” Walsh said.
“I really loved my cast and crew. I would definitely encourage other people to do it.”
Andrew Treat ’22 and Ethan Strull ’22 played security guards in “A Day at the Game.” Both had acted before, but this was their first experience with Masque and Gown.
“It was a lot less structured, which made it a lot more fun for me,” Treat said. “The department shows require a huge time commitment, and this was just about acting with your friends.”
The process was fulfilling, but if the directors could change anything, they would switch the venue to a real theater, instead of the Drake Lobby. Due to other ongoing projects, the lobby was the only space available.
“It would be cool if a really great space existed at Bowdoin for student-driven performances. I think this would enable more creativity and better art on this campus,” Kunins-Berkowitz said.
For Walsh, the lobby was nerve-wracking.
“I probably looked less at the audience than I should’ve,” Walsh said. “If the lights were off I would’ve looked out into the audience more, but I didn’t want to watch my friends.”
Some actors, however, liked the setup, especially after performing last spring without an audience.
“It was incredible,” Treat said. “When Ethan and I walked out, and I just saw people from the floor to the ceiling, I got so happy.”
Strull echoed Treat’s sentiment.
“It really blurred the line between actor and audience,” Strull said. “We were all in the room together.”
Michael Gordon ’25, Lily Randall ’23, Dylan Sloan ’22 and Nicholas Bower ’22 are members of the Bowdoin Orient.