A fabulous night of one-acts

Published 2:08 am Sunday, November 8, 2009

Get ready for a night of sheer entertainment with the production of “A Fabulous Festival Night of One-Acts,” a collaborative effort between Picayune Memorial High School’s High Tide Productions drama troupe and Pearl River Central High School’s Blue Maskers drama troupe.

Now in its second year, the collaborative effort started last year when PMHS drama teacher William Rester pitched the idea to PRCHS drama teacher Deborah Craig. Craig readily accepted the offer, noting at the time that she was excited at the opportunity for the students to work in the Picayune School District auditorium.

This year the aspiring thespians are presenting two, one act plays — “Talking Bird,” an original screenplay by Mr. Rester and performed by High Tide Productions and “The Winner,” a play written by Dwayne Craft and performed by the Blue Maskers.

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Each play is treated as its own production and the set ups and tear downs are skillfully choreographed into the play. Mr. Rester and Mrs. Craig explained that reason for that is the drama troupes would be taking the plays to the University of Southern Mississippi in December to compete in the state regionals. There, each high school troupe will have only 45 minutes in which to set up their stage props, perform, and tear it down, all while in front of the audience and judges. “It is a one-act play from set up to strike,” said Mr. Rester. “They have 45 minutes to set it up, do the play, and then pack it all back into a 10 by 10 box.”

While “The Winner,” a social comedy, makes a critical statement on society’s fixation with winning at all costs using outlandish dialogue and movements, extreme stereotypes, and over-the-top costumes; “Talking Bird,” a coming-of-age drama, tackles the issues of self-esteem, relationships, and self-discovery using surreal earth tones, detailed and intricate stage make-up, and real-life situations topped with a dose of fantasy.

But just to get on the stage takes a lot of work from the students, who often help one another with wardrobe issues, make-up, and lines prior to curtain time. There in a small room, or off to the side of the stage, or squeezed in a bathroom, the thespians are focused on the tasks at hand, a bonding and cooperative effort as each readies for the moment the curtain rises.

At Thursday night’s dress rehearsals there was a flurry of activity in the front hallway of the auditorium with some students sitting in pairs, one applying make-up and one having it applied, others adjusting their wardrobe, and still others chatting in small groups while helping the characters into costumes.

Their youthfulness and exuberance was electrifying as the students prepared to put themselves in front of an audience, many dressed in ways they would never consider dressing in public, sporting cosmetics they would never admit to wearing (the guys,) and having their straight fine locks teased, hair-sprayed, and bobby pinned.

From characters with lines carefully drawn on their rouged faces to give the appearance of old age and wrinkles to those wearing wigs with hairstyles from an era long before their time to rosy cheeks brighter than simply the flush of cold weather.

In the ladies room, Hannah Nunez carefully applied face make-up to the princess character of “Talking Bird.” “This is my first year,” said Hannah of her role in the production as make-up artist for some of the female characters. “If I have a chance to do this again, I definitely will.”

While she did not have formal training, Hannah said she prepared by watching videos, learning from her mother, and applying the make-up techniques she already knew. “I watched a video and use what I already know,” said Hannah as she carefully applied blush to the princess’ cheeks. “And the rest I learned from my Mom.”

Out in the hallway, Mr. Rester applied the “monster” make-up to Joel Cagle who was playing ‘Fanger’ in the play. The distorted and clay-applied mask that took about 45 minutes to complete required special effects to make it stand out under the harsh lights of the stage. “I have never done (the mask) before,” said Mr. Rester, his concentration unwavering as he applied thin, dark lines to Fanger’s face. “The make-up has to be more extreme because the stage lights are so bright or else they look washed out.”

And while it seemed like organized chaos as they readied, a buzz of chatter filling the small room, each of the thespians, as they finished getting ready, became focused, their faces turning serious, casual chatter and socializing ending as they made their way backstage. There, they took their assigned spots as the lights grew dim over the audience, and each stepped into character waiting for that moment. And, then it was time – curtain time!

The Blue Maskers of Pearl River Central High School and High Tide Productions from Picayune Memorial High School will jointly present their Fall one-act plays in “A Fabulous Festival Night of One-Acts” on Nov. 12 and 14, at 7 p.m. at the Picayune School District Auditorium.

Admission is at the door the evenings of performances and is open seating — adults are $8 and students and seniors $5.

The PMHS troupe will be presenting their play along with Hancock High School’s drama troupe for a special dinner performance on November 21 at 6:30 p.m. at the Family Life Center, First United Methodist Church, Picayune. Cost id $10 which includes dinner and the plays. Call 601-543-6316 for more information.