Drama fest is written, directed and acted by students

By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes

For the first time, the McNary One Act Festival will feature a short film.

Along with six student written, directed and acted plays, senior Ashton Thomas has turned APEX, a script by Braden Bedingfield intended for the stage, into a movie.

“My passion is really filmmaking and (I thought) if I can find something that could easily be translated into the film world, then I would love to take on that challenge,” Thomas said. “Then when I read Braden’s script, it was great and I thought that I could totally see it as a film. I just started and now that it’s coming to a close, I’m happy that I did.”

The One Act Festival began Thursday, March 9 and continues Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Ken Collins Theater. Tickets are $5 and on sale at https://mcnaryhs.ticketleap.com.

The film, starring Tyler Anderson and Hannah Collee, tells the story of a man tasked with monitoring a woman for three years. Since the woman is stuck in a room, the man’s only companion is an artificial intelligence module named APEX Seven.

After graduating from McNary, Thomas plans to go to film school. He’s already been accepted to five programs, including Biola University and Azusa Pacific in California.

“I’ve definitely learned a lot,” Thomas said. “It’s been a blast. I’ve had so much fun making it. There’s been so many cool people that I’ve got to work with.”

Thomas chose APEX from 23 scripts written by McNary students in drama director Dallas Myers’ playwriting class.

“There were some (scripts) that didn’t get picked this year that were just incredible,” Myers said. “I had a real good crop in playwriting this year, unreal kids. They’re all so creative.”

Thomas and six others took part in a directing class with Myers.

“It’s a really good learning process for them,” Myers said. “They had a book to read and then we did some exercises in class, very minimal and then they just get tossed into the fire, here you go, you’ve got to do it, and every time they’ve risen.”

The directors also cast their shows.

“It teaches the kids how much it takes,” Myers said. “My favorite part is always casting because I talk to them every time about how I hate casting because I have to see them the next day, sad, sad faces. They go through the same emotions. It’s a good learning experience.”

Three of the directors, McKinley Friesen, Heidi Hays and Kailey Rondo, also had scripts chosen.

Friesen is directing Benched, a script by Alayna Sykosky starring Jordyn Maret, Kendell Tacchini and Zachery Sell about a girl trapped in a long-term relationship, who gets advice from an old lady she meets in a park.

“I think it’s very realistic and it’s honest and it’s important for high schoolers to see a relationship like that and what’s best for the people in it,” said Friesen, whose play In the Garden, a modern day version Adam and Eve, is being directed by Emma Blanco. It stars Wocus Gibbons, Steven Cummings, Anni Sykosky and Noah Schnell.

All of the shows have freshmen and sophomore actors.

Senior Jacob Grimmer, who is directing Hays’ piece The Truth About Jaipur, found the experience harder than he expected.

“It’s really interesting because I’ve been directed by Mr. Myers a lot,” said Grimmer, who was recently in Defying Gravity and The Addams Family musical. “I thought if he can do it, I’m sure I can handle it. There’s only two actors. But it’s so hard. I have to run a scene and block it. If I don’t like how it looks, I have to change it. If they’re not quite memorized and one of them can’t make a rehearsal, then I have to change things.”