JANESVILLE—Hungry for culture? Feed your craving with a theatrical buffet at the Janesville Performing Arts Center’s One Act Festival on Thursday-Saturday, Jan. 17-19.
Part of JPAC’s Local Talent Month celebration, the second-annual event marks a collaborative effort between several of the center’s resident art groups. Members of Janesville Little Theatre, Stage One and Theatre Unlimited will work with local actors and directors to produce a series of short plays written by local and national playwrights. Genres range from comedies to dramas to mysteries.
JPAC Education and Outreach Coordinator Jim McCulloch, who is organizing the festival, stressed its importance in providing exposure for works that might not otherwise ever see the stage.
“A lot of one-act and short plays out there are never produced because people assume, ‘Oh, it’s going to be a two-hour show,’ and overlook them,” he said. “These are more avant-garde, nonmainstream topics, but there are a ton of good ones out there. Look at (the late playwright) Sam Shepard, who died a year ago. He had tons of short, one-act plays that weren’t produced anywhere, so that’s an example of a major playwright with lots of shorter plays left to do.”
Along with pieces by famed playwrights Garry Williams, Ian McWethy, David Ives and Neil Simon, the festival will showcase “world premiere” works by two young writers with local ties. Alex Carrier, a student at TAGOS Leadership Academy in Janesville, wrote a whodunit murder mystery thriller titled “The Figure,” and Janesville native Lorenzo Little penned “Graduation From Objectivity,” which reflects the uncertainty of life after high school.
McCulloch said all of the plays, which will be staged in JPAC’s black box theater, also offer valuable experience for novice directors and aspiring thespians.
“It’s more or less a practice field for everybody. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish with this,” he said. “It gives up-and-coming directors a chance to get their feet wet because people don’t want to give a $10,000 show to someone who hasn’t directed before. And there isn’t the need for a lot of character development for actors because the plays are a little less intensive, so it’s a chance to try things out.”
While the festival features many familiar names from the local theater community, TAGOS will play a prominent role this year. The Janesville charter school, which has one playwright and several student actors involved, has forged a strong working relationship with JPAC, and McCulloch said students have embraced their creative opportunities.
“We’ve been working with TAGOS for the last two years doing workshops, and the kids really bit into it and swallowed the Kool-Aid,” he said. “They have already started a thespian club there, so they are very serious about it.”
The excitement students at TAGOS have shown toward the festival—and the arts in general—has McCulloch encouraged, and he hopes to build similar relationships with other area school districts.
“Kids don’t want to be lectured or talked to. They want to perform and get hands-on experience, which I’m all about,” he said. “You can’t learn this from a book, so this is a good test to see where the program can go.”