A buffet of theatric cuisine awaits drama lovers next week. And a ticket to the student sampler is at everyone’s favorite price: free.
Ten pieces of one-person theater – from dialogue-driven comedy to silent, movement-based abstracts – are packed into two free hours of entertainment March 14 and 15 at 8 p.m. The one-person shows are written, directed, and acted by 10 senior BFA students who’ve spent Winter Quarter producing the shows as a class.
“It’s a pizza of emotion and thought,” said James Donlon, faculty advisor for the one-person shows class. “A good kind of pizza though. It’s very savory and it’s got a lot of ingredients. People devour it and it’s a sensual experience for them.”
Showcasing more than three years of UCSB training in voice, movement and acting, the 10 to 20-minute pieces use a few inexpensive props and uncomplicated lighting. This semi-poor man’s theater relies heavily on the voice and movement talents of its seven actresses and three actors.
Donlon brings over 35 years of theater work from around the world to his class of 19, many of whom he’s known for years due to the close-knit nature of the Drama Department’s BFA program. The same students and teachers share three to four classes a quarter for three years.
“It’s a little different than other parts of the university. You share a lot of triumphs and cover a lot of ground,” said Donlon. “You spend a lot of time together and the boundaries of class are different. It’s not like a teacher up front and the class sitting in chairs. You’re all in it together.”
The family-like cohesion includes both the cast and crew, which all come from the same class. Stage Manager Justin Badger opted out of writing, directing and acting his own piece to make sure the technical aspects of his peers’ shows went well. Prior acting experience helps him deal with both the technical and the creative parts of the shows.
“Traditionally the relationship between the actors and the stage manager and crew can be complicated, but knowing what anxieties are going to come from all aspects of the show helps everything to run as smoothly as it can,” said Badger.
Subjects for the one-pieces are as unique as their creators. Senior BFA actress Michelle Furnace’s epilogue for “Romeo and Juliet” redefines the location of the tragedy in the classic. “My boyfriend calls me a bitter, cynical bitch who can’t see any of the good in the world,” she said with a laugh.
Caitlin Ferrara’s Zen and the Art of Flower Arrangement will feature almost zero talking and elegant dance steps, while Matt Jones will operate without a fourth wall and might pull a few people on stage.
“They’re confident and also excited, and there’s a little bit of trepidation because it’s all them. They’re doing the whole thing and there’s some pressure there,” said Donlon. “It’s the culmination of a lot of personal and technical ideas.”
The senior one-person shows have a history of life after Winter Quarter. Four of last year’s seniors rented out space in LA and did their shows for three weeks. Another alumnus developed his one-person show and took it on the road. Senior BFA Actress Katie Mahaney said her piece – which deals with four dreams she’s had – is something she’d like to continue.
“I definitely want to expand on it. One-person shows were always something that scared me but also excited me. I think we all feel a sense of accomplishment.”
Otherwise, most of the students look forward to grad school at big name acting schools on the East Coast. The one-person show is sort of a graduation, with little more to do before the real world.
“I get great satisfaction,” said Donlon. “I think these human beings are like magicians or shamans in that they transform time and space and make their culture more aware of it’s own issues. I think that’s a great feeling; knowing they dabbled in that magic.”
The troupe says students should attend because the production comes from their own peers – and don’t forget the price tag.
“As an audience member you connect more with the actors and actresses because you can tell that this is something they wrote and directed and produced, it was sort of their baby,” said Badger. “You can see the personal investment.”
“It’s all about our personalities,” said Ferrara. “It’s for us, by us, from us, and it could inspire other people – it’s not hard to think creatively. It’s a good date, better than a movie. It’s human emotion.”
“It’s not something you’re going to see every day,” said Furnace. “A lot of it comes from a very personal place. There’s the fact that it’s free, and that it’s something fellow students have written. They also come from so many angles.”