Harrison Pierpan and Connor Parson in the 2021 One Act production of “Jack.”
The Maine One Act Drama Festival has adapted to the live performance restrictions in the winter of 2021 by asking schools to submit a One Act video to a festival that will take place remotely on the weekend of March 20. The festival, while not competitive, will invite high school theater students to watch each other’s creations and offer feedback.
The Lincoln Academy theater program has created a filmed One-Act play that will premiere this Friday, March 20 as part of this festival. The play they are submitting is an original play written by LA Theater Director Griff Braley in 1994.
“We decided to produce a piece that we might well take to the festival in a normal year, so I reached back into scripts that I had already produced,” said Braley. “I wanted to fully produce, even though we couldn’t have an audience. The experience of a full process for the actors was my leading concern.
“I wrote Jack in 1993 for the 1994 One-Act Festival with the Wiscasset High School theater program,” continued Braley. “The simplicity of the setting and the number of roles made it a good fit. Every role presents a dramatic acting challenge for the small ensemble. That rigor creates a strong working atmosphere, higher stakes, and in my experience better growth for the students. I had recently uncovered an old VHS tape of the show, which helped kids in this age to have a look at what was happening in the ‘old days,’ including Alexa (Dodge) Abbott, a current LA staff member who was one of the leads in the 1994 production.”
While some schools will offer a Zoom recording, livestream, or edited video, the LA program decided to film the performance in one take as an onstage play. “Students wear masks and remain socially distant on stage, but they interact with each other like they would in a live theater production,” said Braley. “We really wanted to continue the rigorous tradition of live theater as much as we could. While this play would have continued to grow had we been able to perform it in front of an audience, I am really impressed with what the students were able to do, given the restrictions this year. Our process in the video domain improved steadily from early fall when we first took this challenge.”
The story of Jack is familiar to anyone who has watched traditional American Film Noir in films like Maltese Falcon, The Big Easy, Double Indemnity and others. The traditions have been so absorbed into modern film that students no longer recognized them, according to Braley. “But the disorientation of the period following World War II has some similarity to what our students are experiencing right now. The great opportunity for students in theater is to be able to examine themes of darkness, fear, power, control, the unknown, and the corresponding principles of courage and determination by which they are overcome.”
The play is presented in twelve scenes that cover a time period of about five days. The audience sees pieces of the narrative in alternating flashbacks and current scenes. Jack, a private eye turned ghost, enlists the help of his devoted secretary Penelope to uncover the truth of the events that led to his death. Other characters include Elizabeth, the femme fatale character, along with Inspector Ed, a pushy detective, and Jack’s best friend and fellow detective, Leo. The play does its work in 40 minutes, with a number of surprises and double crossing characters.
“Jack” will be part of the virtual Maine Drama Festival on Friday, March 19 for festival goers only, and will premiere for the public on the Lincoln Academy YouTube channel on Saturday, March 20 at this link.
Images from the recorded version of Lincoln Academy’s 2021 One Act production of “Jack” are below.