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Student actors and directors find comfort in Stage Left One-Acts

By Emma Shibley, For The Miami Student

Enter Stage Left, Miami University's student-run theatre organization, currently preparing for an upcoming combined evening of one-act plays and talents showcase.

"I acted in high school, and once I got [to Miami] I completely missed it," said junior Maggie Campbell. "Theatre is my whole life."

According to Campbell, the official One-Acts Coordinator, the event is an opportunity for talented, enthusiastic students to express their artistic urges, even if they weren't cast in - or didn't audition for - Miami's or Stage Left's other productions.

"One-Acts are a great opportunity for students who don't have the time to commit to a full-length show," said Sarah Emery, Stage Left's public relations director.

With just a handful of rehearsals over the course of two to three weeks, almost anyone can find time to participate.

But how can a show come together so quickly?

Emery said that one-acts are shorter and less intense than a typical play, and that such shows have minimal costumes, props and set pieces as well. As an actor in previous one-acts, Campbell often wore clothing she already owned.

"I don't think it's even close to 30 minutes," said student director Brandon Fogel of his show.

Because of the short time frame and minimal technical design, Fogel says his focus will be on the sincerity of his character's relationships.

"One-Acts let us gain acting and directing experience," Campbell said.

Such opportunities can be limited when many skilled theatre majors audition for Miami's productions.

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While Fogel acted in, directed and stage-managed a number of plays and one-acts in high school, this project will be his first involvement with Stage Left. He hopes that it doesn't end up a train wreck.

"I loved casting a vision and then seeing how it evolved and changed when you got people into roles," the sophomore business and political science student said of his prior experience directing.

"I liked having a big picture idea, but allowing others to create the details within that picture … I'm not a professor with years of experience, I'm just somebody around [the actors'] same age who has different things to contribute."

During auditions, hopeful actors leaned forward to absorb the show descriptions, eyes focused, game faces on. When sides - sections of the script to be read by all combinations of people at auditions - were passed out, the previously chatty room went silent as the actors immediately began analyzing the text in search of places to make creative choices.

But these auditions were overall casual and informal, nothing like those through Miami's theatre department. Students wore whatever they were comfortable in, not what they thought directors wanted to see. Everyone snapped or clapped between readings.

The student directors, Fogel and Ebere Okoro, spoke openly about the plays they would be directing. Okoro's is a self-written piece inspired by mythological figures, Fogel's an intimate look into the building of a relationship that he describes as ebbing and flowing. It was beyond acceptable that Okoro's excitement bubbled over when she heard lines she had written be performed.

In the laid-back audition atmosphere, actors could even joke with their prospective cast mates and directors, and vice versa.

"I feel like Apollo would hit on Muses, like, all the time," sophomore history major Remy Willocks said upon hearing the character list in Okoro's original play.

When another student asked about how to interpret a finer point in Okoro's piece, she laughed and admitted the truth.

"I've actually only done research on the Muses…" she said. "So, hm, I'll leave that up to you!"

Once the casts have been determined - which is made more difficult by casting two plays at once, Okoro's cast of nearly a dozen with Fogel's cast of two - the same kind of creative process will continue into rehearsals. According to Fogel, directing fellow students is akin to trying all the different ways a piece might fit into a giant puzzle.

"It's not about finding one single way that fits your image," he said. "It's about finding all the different ways your play could go."

Campbell also said the more simplistic nature of one-act plays gives the audience a chance to get to know Stage Left in a smaller setting than that of the full-length productions.

"Stage Left is such a unique opportunity for students all across the university to come together," Emery said. "At the end of the day we all have a passion for theatre."

Campbell feels the same.

"I've met several friends," Campbell said of her growing involvement with the organization. "I thought I was going to hate [attending Miami], but it ended up being one of the best decisions of my life."

Stage Left's One-Acts will be performed at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 2, in Wilks Theater.