The Hippo


May 31, 2020








4 a.m. featured in the One Act Play Festival. Courtesy of Jennifer Cardarelli.

One Act Play Festival

When: Thursday, Feb. 1, through Saturday, Feb. 3, 7:30 p.m. 
Where: Dana Center, 100 St. Anselm Drive, Manchester
Tickets: $9 for adults, $8 for seniors, college students and children under age 14 
More info:

Three for one
Saint Anselm students produce one-act plays

By Angie Sykeny

 Each year the Anselmian Abbey Players at Saint Anselm College in Manchester present the One Act Play Festival, a longstanding tradition in which three students are selected to direct their own one-act plays. The event returns on Thursday, Feb. 1, to the school’s Dana Center. 

“Since we don’t have a theater department, [the festival] affords students a special opportunity on this campus to carry out leadership responsibilities in theater for a major artistic event,” Abbey Players Director Landis Magnuson said. 
Two of the three student directors also wrote their plays. Senior Jake Miller wrote and is directing Maria’s Mind, a comedy which follows the day-to-day thoughts of a high school junior named Maria Summers. 
Senior Brendan Mahoney is the writer and director of A Priest of the People, a dark comedy that explores public memory and crises of faith through the eyes of a newly ordained priest who discovers an ugly truth about his predecessor and parish. 
While the college does offer some theater courses, playwriting is not one of them; the students who wrote plays wrote them of their own volition, Magnuson said, and not just for a class. 
“This has become a significant outlet for student playwriting,” he said. “Those students then also have the unique opportunity to direct their own writing and follow through with their original vision for it.”  
The third student director, senior Ally MacDonald, chose and bought the rights to a play called 4 a.m., written by Jonathan Dorf. It’s a dramatic comedy about various people who find themselves awake at 4 a.m.; among them are a radio DJ, a troubled soul writing a letter, a modern-day Romeo and Juliet, and a number of teens. The characters ponder life’s questions and wonder if there are others like them who are awake at that time. 
“When I read it, I knew right away that I had to bring it to life,” MacDonald said. “It immediately stood out to me and impacted me personally, and I know it will do the same for my audience.” 
MacDonald is a computer science major but has always strived to make theater a part of her life. She’s been involved with the Abbey Players since she was a freshman and directed her first one-act play for the festival in her sophomore year. 
“I’ve acted before, but I love directing,” she said. “It’s a different role. You get to create something and see what you create physically come to life.” 
4 a.m. runs about 30 minutes and has a cast of six people. It’s only been performed in New Hampshire once before. MacDonald watched some YouTube videos of performances of the play by other theater companies for inspiration, but much of its appeal, and the appeal of many one-act plays, she said, is the simplicity, which leaves the interpretation up to the director. 
“It’s very minimalistic, and there isn’t a lot about it that’s set in stone, so a lot of it is my decision,” she said. “I can do a lot with it and put my personal vision into it.” 
The shorter nature of one-act plays can also make them a challenge to direct, however, because there is less time to introduce the characters, tell the story and convey the play’s message. 
“You want to give it the same weight that you get from a full-length play, but you only have half an hour to do it, and it’s hard to say what you want to say in that short amount of time,” MacDonald said, “so a lot of it is about getting the timing right.” 
Magnuson said the festival is a special chance for audiences to see three plays in one night, all with different styles. 
Maria’s Mind is the outright comedic piece, 4 a.m. works its way between the comedic and the somber, and A Priest of the People is a really serious look at its subject matter,” he said, “so we definitely have a great balance of plays.”

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