Watching their works come alive

Publication Date: Wednesday Jun 17, 1998

Watching their works come alive

Gunn playwrights' ideas play out on stage during this year's one-acts

by Jennifer Cole

In the glaring lights of center stage at Gunn High School last month, students saw the fruit of their imaginations spring to life in a series of one-act plays, including two written by students. The annual production featured six one-act plays, all acted and directed by students.

Audrey Hannah and Andrea Goldblatt co-wrote "Corn Stars," which is based on their experiences working at the Palo Alto Square Theater.

Goldblatt, a senior and the director of "Corn Stars," proposed the idea to Hannah, who jumped at the chance. Hannah, a Gunn graduate who just finished her freshman year at the University of Chicago, also wrote and directed a one-act play last year.

The characters that emerged from this production are a pastiche of different people with whom the two women worked at the theater as well little bits of themselves and the actors, according to Goldblatt.

"I think it was easier, in that we had a sense of where we were going with it because we had a sense of who the characters were," Hannah said. "But what ends up coming out during those 20 minutes is always different than you think."

The action takes place in the front lobby of a movie theater, complete with candy behind a glass counter, a popcorn machine, and "coming soon" movie posters. The play takes place during the time last year when the Palo Alto Square theater was set to close. (It was saved at the last minute.)

With two main characters, Drew, played by Jason Biehler, and Connor, played by Lindsey Seldon, the day in the life of the theater unfolds with flirtations and hopes. Connor declares that the little theater, playing small-release foreign films, is saving the audience from the "homogenized Hollywood" movies. The act ends with the manager of the doomed theater, Alan, played by Dave Enemark, giving a monologue about the closing of the theater.

"I love that crazy theater," he declares.

Hannah and Goldblatt were not alone in writing their own script. Aleks Merilo began performing at Palo Alto's Children's Theater when he was 10 and has acted in eight Gunn productions. This spring the Gunn senior wrote and directed his own play.

Inspiration for his act, "Foul Ball," hit while he was taking a creative writing class. "I was thinking about how writing affects society," Merilo said.

With a cast of three characters, played by Nick Junkerman, Julie Lake and Tolu Thomas, the play is set at a gas station. Merilo created this one-act play because, as plays go, one-acts are the easiest to produce.

"If it can be only 20 minutes long, you can create characters, but more than three is too many," he said. "I wrote another one-act last year that was kind of a two-friends thing."

In the fall Merilo will be attending UCLA as a theater major. "It's one of the best schools for theater in the country," he said. "If I were to go to a conservatory, I would only learn a craft. At UCLA, I will be a more well-rounded person if I study liberal arts as well as theater."

Because of Hannah's college education, Goldblatt and Hannah's production was a long-distance affair, a long time in the making.

"It was kind of exciting to be e-mailing and to add stuff and send it back," Hannah said, describing the writing process of Corn Stars.

Goldblatt said that right up until spring break, which fell at the beginning of April, they were still playing with the script.

"It was sporadic," Goldblatt said. "We'd write some, and then a big chunk would come. There were some disagreements, but there was always compromise--no one lost."

After several weeks of rehearsals, including a five-hour "marathon" rehearsal, the cast nailed it, she said.

"By the end of the show we had taught each other so much," Goldblatt said. "Making new discoveries about cast members every night made it fresh."

After all the performances Seldon said she started to feel like the character. The ending of the play, when the characters go off in their own directions, left her wondering.

"I'm having a hard time separating myself from the characters," Seldon said. "All of these characters wanted something. The play doesn't just die. There are so many unresolved issues."

Goldblatt, Biehler, Enemark and Seldon are all seniors. The other two actors, Rob Walsh and Lizzie Lisha, will return to Gunn in thhe fall.

Of the four seniors, only UCLA-bound Goldblatt is going to college with a focus on performing arts in mind.

Hannah has been performing in a comedy improvisational group in Chicago recently, but she says she prefers directing over acting. "I'm much more interested in the theory behind acting," she said. "I'm probably going to pull together a major that involves sociology and art. I am very interested in using art as a means for social change." 

Back up to the Table of Contents Page