Old Academy One Act Bonanza to display new talent, variety of shows

 From left: Randy Shupp, Jonathan Walsh and Chris Wunder star in a scene from “The Signal,” one of seven shows being presented at the Old Academy Players’ Summer One-Act Bonanza 2013. (Joel B. Frady/for NewsWorks)

From left: Randy Shupp, Jonathan Walsh and Chris Wunder star in a scene from “The Signal,” one of seven shows being presented at the Old Academy Players’ Summer One-Act Bonanza 2013. (Joel B. Frady/for NewsWorks)

While Paul Revere, Julia Child and three teenagers at a cell phone store don’t have much in common, they will all share the same stage of the Old Academy Players this weekend as the theater presents its Summer One-Act Bonanza 2013.

The event opens on Saturday, July 6, and will feature seven short plays from seven directors.

Nancy Frick, president of the OAP and producer of the show, said the event provides a good opportunity for actors and aspiring directors to get extra theater experience and exposure. 

“We tend to have a lot of new people come to our one act auditions,” said Frick. “We get a lot of new, young – young is important – blood in here.” She noted that, offstage, it is also a “great opportunity to let people try their hand at directing. It’s 10 minutes, maybe 15 minutes, and you get to experience what it’s like to be a director and understand the responsibilities and see if you want to do it in the future.”

Brenna McBride is one of the seven directors but the only one at the 2013 Bonanza who also wrote her play, “If.” She wrote the show last summer during a PlayPenn workshop at the Adrienne Theater and submitted it to the Old Academy, although she hadn’t planned on directing.

“I originally didn’t want to direct because I thought I was too close to it,” she said, but the other directors had already chosen shows. Although she finds the prospect of her show opening before a live audience “a little nerve-racking,” McBride said she found it ” neat to work with the actors and coax the characters out of them. … They really seemed to get what I wanted.”

A team effort 

The show also requires the directors to create a show with a simple, easy-to-move set that can be easily be assembled and moved away. Polly Edelstein, who is directing her third one-act at OAP (“How He Lied to Her Husband” by George Bernard Shaw), said the simplification of sets and costumes allows her to focus on the important aspects.

“You are forced to adapt to this situation so it really simplifies everything,” said Edelstein. “If I had a $5,000 budget to do lavish costumes, I feel like I would concentrate more on all that instead of the heart of the show.You are forced to think of what’s most important about the show.”

Although actors in the seven shows rehearsed separately for the first several weeks of production, the Bonanza also requires a lot of teamwork. Cast members in one show, for instance, can be seen carrying props on and off the stage in between other shows.

Director Tiffany Brink, who is making her OAP directing debut with “Can You Hear Me Now?”, said she enjoyed working on the teamwork-oriented show.

“We have so many different sets and props we have to get going and make sure they’re in the right place,” she said. “Everybody really comes together to make sure all that happens.”

A tribute to the event’s founder 

Frick noted that the Bonanza, now in its fifth year, also serves as a tribute to the event’s founder and original producer, Chris Schenk, who approached the OAP in 2009 with the idea to hold a one-act festival. 

“The great thing about Chris was it wasn’t just ‘here’s a great idea, somebody do it,'” said Frick. “It was ‘here’s a great idea and I will do it.’ He did all of it – ran the auditions, got the cast and produced it.” She noted that she sees the Bonanza as an “annual tribute” for Schenk, who was only 29 when he died of cancer in 2012.

“It’s part of the reason, I think, why I personally want to make sure this goes on,” she said. “Not only is it great fun, but it makes me think of Chris.”

The Summer One-Act Bonanza will be performed at 8 p.m. on July 6, 12 and 13, with matinees at 2 p.m. on July 7 and 14. Tickets are $15.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.