March 8, 2024

Windham High School hosts regional One Act Festival

By Jolene Bailey

The Maine Principals Association organizes the regional One Act Festival bringing together different schools to perform and compete in a 5-minute skit. This year, the One Act Festival will be conducted at Windham High School’s Performing Arts Center.

WHS students will be performing a skit based upon Nick Danger referencing the Maltese Falcon, a movie starring Humphry Bogart. Nick Danger is a mocking imitation, featuring light and good humor of 1930s and 1940s private eye and detective radio shows.

“Nick Danger, and my longtime love of this script, goes back to when I was in high school, said CJ Payne, WHS auditorium and skit director. “I was getting into the comedy of Monty Python, and my father introduced me to the FireSign Theater, with Nick Danger. They were a 1960s and 1970s radio comedy group, and he thought I'd enjoy their comedy.”

The One Act Festival features local school theater programs in addition to being a competition. It started in 1932, and the first drama competition was held at Bath High School. Each school has five minutes to build their set on the stage, and five minutes to take it down after the show.

Each show cannot exceed 40 minutes, or a severe point deduction is tacked on to that school's score. There are three judges, which each have a three-minute critique for every show, and then the students have three minutes to ask the judges questions.

“We are going very outside of the norm for the festival,” Payne said. “. Our show is a staged reading, and a radio play. So, our actors have their scripts with them, and they worked very hard on learning voice acting. I know they're very excited to bring a new spin on a One Act show to the festival.”

Each performing school has a total of 55 minutes on the stage alone to prepare all their lighting cues, see how their set fits on a new stage, and prepare the actors for special changes from their own school.

Francesca Lomonte, a junior student who is responsible for running the sound board, said she really likes practicing the five-minute set up.

“Although it is ridiculously stressful, I like seeing the cast and crew work together as a machine because everybody has their own job, and we all flow to create such a wonderful set in less than five minutes,” Lomonte said.

This is Lomonte’s second year of participating in one act. Last year she was a part of the stage crew for Windham’s performance of “Humbletown.”

“The rehearsal process for the show involves a lot of script analysis with the actors,” said Payne. “Developing a character that is believable involves understanding what the writer was trying to accomplish with the play. The process of hosting a festival involves a great deal of communication with the directors from our guest schools. As you can imagine, it can be a challenge to take a show to another school's theater that you are unfamiliar with.”

Windham’s stage is hosting four guest Class A and Class B schools. Windham has a long history of hosting the regional festival and has also hosted the All-State festival in 2018. Windham has hosted every two years, so students have a chance to experience theater programs at other schools and their own.

“If I'm being honest, I spend a lot of time in the auditorium doing odd jobs that need doing like cleaning up backstage, putting up and taking down the wall, and putting up the bleacher seats. One day this past December, CJ asked if I wanted to run sound and I said sure,” said Lomonte.

The biggest difference between the One Act Festival and normal productions is that the one act is a competition. Students have to put on a show that competes against other schools. The time limits are also very different and create a unique challenge. A typical musical production goes on for roughly an hour and a half whereas for one act, students have only five minutes of performing time. The entire production is put into the hands of the students. It gives students a chance at running things and the responsibility and the pride that comes from the job.

“It has been fantastic. I can't be prouder of the actors and technicians that stepped up to such a challenge,” said Payne.

Windham High performs in the One Act Festival at WHS at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, March 9. The Maine Principals Association has set ticket prices at $11.50, $6.25 for students, per performance session. The Saturday afternoon performance session starts at 11:30 a.m. with Fryeburg Academy. <

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