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Cover Story

Boulder City High School Short Play Festival
by Heide Lee

Nothing can compare to the thrill of stepping onto a stage for the first time. For Boulder City High School theatre students, that thrill is often experienced during the annual Short Play Festival. Boulder City High School theatre students are currently gearing up to present the Seventh Annual Short Play Festival on May 1-2 at 7:00pm in the Boulder City High School Theatre located at 1101 5th Street. General admission is $5. (Call 702.799.8200 for more information.)

As a first-year theatre teacher in the fall of 2007 at a brand new school, I had no idea what to expect from the students when I picked a play and held an audition. Would students show up at all? If so, how many? Would they all be girls? Not being able to answer any of these questions, a more creative production solution needed to be found. The answer came in the form of the Short Play Festival. It could be a show that would provide flexibility in rehearsal, some gender-neutral roles, doubling up if needed, uncomplicated technical demands, and the chance to see students in leadership roles and assess the baseline ability of the majority of interested students. The scripts could be simple and fun. The sets could be minimal. It was the ideal first production.

The Short Play Festival is a student-led production, which allows student directors, designers, technicians, and actors to mirror the real-life collaborative process that takes place in professional theatres across the country. Students choose the scripts, cast the plays, design the sets and costumes, direct the staging, run the tech, and act in the show. They exercise and develop many practical and creative skills, but if you ask one of the students involved, they’re more likely to say that the whole thing is simply fun.

It’s not an easy process to put on a show, but Boulder City High School students have shown over the last six years that they are up to the challenge.  What sets the Short Play Festival apart (and perhaps makes it so popular with students and audiences) is that it is one show comprised of five or six, ten to fifteen minute plays. The show is fast-paced and involves many students, usually forty to sixty depending on cast sizes, including directors, actors, and technicians. With less daily rehearsal time and a shortened overall rehearsal calendar, it creates opportunities for students who are not usually involved in theatre to get a taste of being in a show.

The whole process starts with director applications where students submit titles of two plays they are interested in directing. Once the titles and directors are chosen, the technical theatre class gets to work. The tech class reads all of the plays together and the tech students are then assigned to a production crew where one student is chosen to be the crew head for each play. Each director comes into the technical theatre class to meet with their production crew, with the crew leader acting as liaison between the director and the crew.  The director lays out his or her vision to the crew and incorporates the crew’s ideas and suggestions into the initial concept. Finally, as a whole team the students involved settle on a final production plan and build list for each individual play. The crew leader then ensures that the crew brings the designs to life as they work on the plans each day during the technical theatre class.

While the crews feverishly dive into their production designs, the directors shift their focus to casting. Auditions are open to all Boulder City High School students, and, as stated before, a wide variety of students come to audition. Over the course of two days after school, students rotate in groups to perform cold-reads (reading as the characters right out of the script) for each of the five to six directors. At the end of the second day, the directors sit together and, with compromise, all plays are cast and each director finally has a group of students ready to direct.

Over the next five weeks of rehearsal (one hour every day after school), the directors bring to life the storytelling with the actors, while the tech crews continue to create the world of the play. One week before opening night, all of the casts meet together to rehearse the plays in the order in which they will be performed during the finished show. Finally, technical elements and staging come together as tech run crews are added to the process and everyone works together to rehearse all tech cues, scene changes, and curtain calls. Several casts suddenly merge to become one giant production team with a single goal in mind: to deliver an exciting and entertaining night of theatre sure to please every audience member. And considering the continued success and popularity of the Short Play Festival, the students definitely deliver.

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