PPHS students present One Act Festival
PAW PAW - Paw Paw High School Performing Arts students will demonstrate the two faces of the theater - comedy and tragedy - when they present this year’s One Act Festival, with performances tonight (Friday) and tomorrow.
The Festival opens at 7 this evening with the first showing of “Circles,” written by Paw Paw Performing Arts Center Technical Director Kristofer Perkins. “Circles” is a realistic portrayal of teen bullying from two perspectives - the Offenders and the Victims.
In the Victim’s Circle are the kids who have had to deal with abuse, suicide, and bullying. In Circle 2 are the offenders, kids who don’t care about the people they hurt, who feel that the world owes them something. What is discovered is these kids have been through it all and now want those around them to hurt like they do. Are they victims themselves?
Perkins brought “Circles” to the P.A.C. stage in 2011 and 2012. He brought it back this year on the urging of several senior students. His motivation in writing the play was personal as well as creative.
“I was bullied a lot as a kid and I see it happen in the world,” said Perkins. “Even though we talk about it, and know we need to do something about it, I feel like it is overlooked more than it should be.
“I see what these kids today have to deal with and there needs to be something more than just a lecture or a conversation about it. People need that visual, that heart-felt connection to really get a feel for what these kids see everyday,” Perkins said. “Having a group of adults get up there and tell you how it is doesn’t do the job like a group of your peers doing it.
“I feel like this is meant to be a student piece for exactly that reason,” Perkins stated.
Although the subject matter is universal, from an artistic stand point, Perkins sees differences every time it is brought to the stage.
“This show is more refined having been cleaned up over the course of the productions past. The challenge is always the same,” Perkins explained. “These kids have no set, no real props, and no fancy costumes to make a point. It is their words, their stories that fuel the emotion of the show. I want the audience to feel what these kids feel, but most of all I always tell my cast the same thing. If one person in the audience sees this show and looks at their life, the way they treat people, the way they are treated, or the way someone they know is treated, and works to make a change for the good, we have done our jobs,” he said.
Perkins feels the play serves as an opportunity to teach and build awareness for the students and the audience. He has invited area school counselors and organizations to attend the shows. Mapleview Consultation Center, of Paw Paw, will have a counselor and information available in the PAC lobby.
“Every time we do the show at least one person in the cast sees the world differently,” Perkins noted, “Each time we do the show I have multiple people come up to me and simply say ‘thank you for doing this.’ Most students won’t admit it, but I feel like they walk away from the show with a certain clarity that comes from these characters.”
Three of the senior actors - Luke Cook, Ty Bremmer, and Mitchell Taplin - return to Circle chairs for these performances.
Cook said he has different perspective as an upperclassman. He said his character, Jake, learned that his Circle does not define him but defines his circumstances.
“He’s a victim trying to stop from moving through to the other circle,” Cook explained. “He is generally aggressive and has to be counseled that violence isn’t the answer.”
Cook has enjoyed being in a leader position for the younger student actors this time around.
Bremmer plays an offender, Luke, and said playing in a serious role is so different from what he has normally played in other shows. “Because it’s more serious, I had to be more prepared.” he said.
He said the role opened his eyes to not only what the victims feel, but also how his character, a bully, feels.
“It’s so different, I can’t put myself in it but I try to ask what do I want him to be and to discover what it’s like to be a bully,” he said. He likes that this will help younger students and thinks it’s something people really need to see.
“Circles” will be presented again in a 3 p.m. matinee on Saturday; then at 7 p.m., comedy will replace tragedy when two highly PAC-experienced students direct “Epic Fail” followed by “The Actor Games.”
Senior Hannah Powless, with a large resume of student-acting performances, takes the helm for “Epic Fail.” She said she enjoyed taking on the director role and loved seeing her actors discover their character. She also liked the collaboration with them.
“It was fun to have them share their ideas and incorporate some into the show,” she said.
“The Actor Games,” a comedic spin on the very well-known books and movies, “The Hunger Games” is directed by another seasoned student performer, senior Hannah Gibbs.
Gibbs said she loved having the opportunity as well. “It’s definitely a challenge, but worth it.” she said.
She added “it is cool” to see her ideas brought to the stage; but there is some pressure trying to be the director of your peers.
“You don’t want to disappoint them (during casting). I just had to go in pretending I didn’t know them, because you may want someone in a role but you need to discover who you need in the role,” she said.
Tickets for the One Act Festival (all three shows for one price) are available at the PPHS Performing Arts Center box office. Call the PAC or visit ppps.org/performing arts department for more information or to purchase tickets.