The students at Oak Harbor High School got a taste of what Melissa Gibson has to go through as a drama teacher and advisor of the Drama Club.
Since 2018, the school has been giving students the opportunity to write and direct one-act plays, presented to the public at the yearly Fall Drama Fest. This year’s event runs Nov. 16-18 at the Student Union Building and features four one-act plays — half written by students — and a cast and crew of 39 students.
Gibson said the program allows student directors to “stretch their creative muscles” and learn to manage time and people, which always looks good on resumes and college recommendation letters.
“The growth in the directors also makes them better actors because they have a better understanding of how many moving parts there are for a show,” she said.
At the same time, student actors with less theater experience get to start simple before performing in larger productions.
The two student-written plays are “Dead House” and “No Clue,” two comical murder mysteries.
Seniors Linndsy Scheer and Zoe Bever are the directors of “Dead House,” a fun watch for fans of whodunits and love stories.
Scheer, who wrote the play, explained that the characters are exaggerations of movie and play tropes. A year ago, while working on a murder mystery book about an escape room, they realized that almost all murder mysteries have the same characters, so the play pokes fun at that.
At the same time, Bever said, the story reminds the audience that we can’t predict who will come into our lives, or make a comeback.
One of the challenges of working on this project was accepting that it was never going to match the vision Scheer had in mind. Now, however, they believe the final result is much better than what they envisioned.
Senior Spencer Grubbs wrote his first-ever play “No Clue,” a murder mystery he is co-directing with Sadie Marriott. The story takes place in the 1920s and features over-the-top characters in fancy clothing of the time. The play took a lot of effort, he said, as the story isn’t told in chronological order and because it required a lot of period props and set pieces that are often hard to find.
Junior Kincaid Cochran is directing “Nellie,” a play written by Minnesota writer Robby Steltz based on the true story of Nellie Bly — whose birth name was Elizabeth Jane Cochran. Bly was an investigative journalist who, in 1887, went undercover as a mentally ill patient to expose the abuse taking place at Blackwell’s Island asylum.
To Cochran, who is co-directing the play with fellow student Eclipse Garett, the most challenging part of directing the play was balancing her role as a leader with being a friend to the cast and crew.
“You have to be able to put your ideas and criticisms into words that don’t hurt the actors and crew,” she said.
The fest ends with “10 Ways to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse” by author Don Zolidis and co-directed by Dana Riva and Ethan Johnson. The play has a quite memorable opening scene, but manages to remain hilarious through the end.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the first show kicks off at 7. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $10, and proceeds will help send students to the Washington State Thespian Festival, an event where students can attend workshops and performances and network with other students.