By Tori Rodgers
The annual student led Shorts Festival this fall semester opened on Wednesday October 9th to great success. After wrapping up the following Saturday, there were over 300 attendees for the four night performance. As the name implies, the performance was made up of five short plays with entirely different storylines and characters.
First up was “The Chase” by Nikita Sowan, starring Nick Hughes, Jillian Kirkham, Josof Ruttig, Emily Kean, Grant Pierce, Makayla Loomis, Rebecca Oliphant, and Emma Wiseman. It was directed by Keon Dalziel, a sophomore music major and first time director. When searching for his script, he wanted something that was a romantic comedy, longer, and had a bigger cast.
Dalziel explained “The Chase” as such: “It is about the rich bachelor who likes a bachelorette and their butlers fall in love with each other. Double wedding.” Romcom gold.
Next was “St. Freeman’s ER”, written by Sherm S. Nicholas and performed by Jessica Perkins, Alexandra Hanshaw, Emma Wiseman, Kayla Guthrie, Lauren Goodman, Elena Daley, Mikayla Strader, and Paschon Taylor. Grace Ehlert, a junior communication arts and English double major, directed the comedic short.
“People come into an emergency room with crazy things wrong with them,” Ehlert said. “As the people are coming in, there’s one guy that comes in with heart attack symptoms, but he keeps getting sent out the exit.”
The accepted patients’ “ailments” get even more ridiculous up until the end, where the actually sick man is asked after; turns out, he just stopped coming back. It is ended with Luke 5:31-32: Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
“We Are Not What We Do” was the third short play, written and directed by Tyler Kirker, sophomore communication arts major. He took a third role in acting as well, alongside Makayla Smith, Isaac Sustar, and Andrea Garcia, with fight choreography done by Brad Eick.
“It’s set in a world that’s based off of the middle ages,” Kirker said. “It follows a princess who fears for her future as the queen, a knight who has to protect her… a dancer who is dying of a plague, [and] a thief who she’s married to that [steals] from people to afford her cure… It’s showing how when God brings these four together [and] they all come out having their prayers answered.”
“Clothes for Their Souls”, written by Michael Rudd, was up third. Maddy Olson, a senior zoo and wildlife major, directed Josof Ruttig, Faith Brenneman, Rachel Walker, Eric Baker, Paschon Taylor, Makayla Loomis, and Mikayla Strader.
“[It’s] based on the book Anthem by Ayn Rand… a similar concept to The Giver,” Olson said. “Humanity is in the future and society has reacted negatively to individualism and made a complete 180 shift; it’s all collectivistic, everything is a group… Anomaly [the main character] has rediscovered individualism.”
The anomaly was imprisoned and confronted by the “collective” in an attempt to prevent future deviances. It ends with the order for him to be executed, but his ideas were spread.
“[The people of the collective] fall into his trap in which, throughout the show, he pulls their individualism out of them and shows it to them,” Olson said. “Now everyone is starting to see that you can’t take the individuality out of a society, it’s always there.”
To wrap up the night, “Boxed In” by Ben Kingsland took the stage, co-directed by Christian Sanko, a junior communication arts major, and Samantha Hudzik, a senior communication arts major. It starred Crystal Byler, Myriah Smith, Julia Robinson, and Hayley Fantin.
“[Delaney], an office worker, is afraid of being laid off and so to avoid receiving her pink slip, she hides in a box from her boss with help from her friend Jill,” Sanko said of the short.
Sanko and Hudzik had a dynamic different than other directors as they did it together. They blocked it before rehearsals started to create a base they both agreed on, then traded off rehearsals based on their busy schedules.
“Co-direction is a process where, at least in some way, you do not own the entirety of the project,” Sanko said. Together, they were able to make audiences laugh with a sitcom akin to The Office, nicely wrapping up the shorts festival each night to applause and leading into the post-play discussion.
Josof Ruttig, a freshman integrated language arts major, was the star of two shorts in the festival: “The Chase” and “Clothes for Their Souls”. It was his first time performing such a short performance on stage and his first Malone debut.
“It was definitely a great learning experience because [the process is] condensed in terms of time frame compared to what I’m used to,” Ruttig said. “I definitely grew the most into these characters compared to any characters I’ve played before.”
Ruttig, along with all of the directors, agreed that the Fall Shorts Festival went really well. The sponsor and fundraiser behind the successful performance was Alpha Psi Omega. APO is a national theater honor society, with Maddy Olson as the Malone chapter’s president.
“This is an organization that provides students with new skills in their theatrical abilities as well as leadership opportunities,” Olson said.
To get into APO, there are certain criteria, including academic, that must be met to have your application considered, though major doesn’t matter.
“That’s simply because we’re trying to not only do theater, but do school and do them all well,” Sanko said, a member of APO. “Just like the school has standards, we have our own.”
APO sponsors several theater events throughout the year, like shorts and 24 hour theater, and conducts other service opportunities and fundraisers like food drives for local food banks.
“The theater has its own budget; I think productions come out of that,” Sanko said. “The actual funds that we raise usually go towards funding outings for the students involved in APO.”
These outings consist of seeing professional theater outside of Playhouse Square, such as Sight & Sound Theaters that put on Christian theater. Funds also go to APO events like induction, cast parties, and campus events.
Tammie McKenzie is an advisor to APO and the producing director of the Fall Shorts Festival. Regularly, she is the director of theater and chancels and is a professor of communication, visual, and performing arts.
“[For shorts] I put out a call for all the directors and then I meet with the directors and help with play selection [and] help secure the plays. Then we talk about production schedule,” McKenzie said. “I advise all the way through the auditions… organize the rehearsal schedules… [and advise] the directors as they’re going through the rehearsal process.”
McKenzie is also in charge of tech, finances, assembling crew, and many other important things that are crucial to running the show. The call for directors came over the summer and a production meeting was right before the semester started. During this time, directors searched for their scripts using online play services such as stageplays, dramatix, 10-minute-plays, and more.
Auditions were held on September 4th and rehearsals began soon after at each director’s discretion. In essence, the 90 minute performance had roughly 90 hours of rehearsals and an additional 30 hours for pre production over the course of five weeks.
In more recent years, the shorts festival started as a staple in the spring and, starting last year, is now also in the fall; the regularly scheduled spring festival is only tentative for this year, but is hopefully an event to look forward to.
“I like the Fall Shorts Festival because [for] people that are just getting here to Malone, it gives them the immediate opportunity to get involved and be in a play,” McKenzie said. “It’s a theater that is open to all students at Malone during their time here.”
Olson agrees: “Theater is for everyone and… theater is not just for actors.”
Emma Yockey, a junior communication arts major, can attest to that. She’s the stage manager; she checks on the house, the attendance of the actors, props, furniture, and calls cues for light and sound.
“Theater doesn’t run without tech,” Yockey said. “If there weren’t tech people, there wouldn’t be a show.”
Other people that made the show happen were Brian Ohler (sound and lighting designer), Kat Todd (deck manager), Kia Wade (light tech), Xerxes Smith (sound tech), and the deck crew of Raelynn Tolbert, Abigail Laroy, and Seneca Ransom. In addition to those that ushered and helped with the box office, over 45 people had a hand in making the Fall Shorts Festival a success.
Future theater events coming up are the musical I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change opening on November 19th and 24 hour theater at the beginning of the spring semester.
Sanko said of the latter: “It’s another great way to get involved if you haven’t had a whole lot of theater experience!”