This weekend, the Opening Knight Players will present three student-written and directed one act plays.
Prince Roland and the Quest In Which He Reluctantly Partakes, Overruled, and Promzilla will be presented on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Ellington High School. The cost is $8 for adults and $6 for seniors and students.
Erin McGrath, a junior, is the writer of Promzilla. She said that William Prenetta, the drama advisor, first talked to her about writing and directing her own one act sometime early last summer after she had talked to him about wanting to pursue writing and directing professionally.
She said that she struggled to come up with a story for a good part of the summer vacation, but her luck changed when the group went to Scotland last summer.
“I came up with the concept for my play while we attended a workshop with the Royal Shakespeare Company about Wigs and Makeup,” she said. “A few of the boys on the trip were dressed as girls, and over the course of the next few days I refined the ideas that were swirling around in my head. Not to give a lot of the plot away, but needless to say, I found a way to work what we had learned in the workshop into my show.”
McGrath said that writing was a sometimes difficult, but hugely rewarding, experience. She said that it really helped that Prenetta and the other writers, Kristyn Stauffer and Max Marholin, were able to give her feedback essentially once a week.
“One of the characters that was added in from the original idea even came out of the classes that we had,” she said.
According to McGrath, directing was a whole different deal. She said that she knew roughly what she needed to be doing, but that she was really just going by gut instinct.
“Being a junior, I was extremely nervous that it would be difficult being the leader of many older juniors and seniors,” she said. “Luckily, OKP is a very rare environment in that I had very little trouble. I was incredibly lucky to have a very talented cast and very knowledgeable crew.”
She said that she is sad that the show is coming to an end so soon, but that she is thinking of it as a beginning of the rest of her career.
“I plan on attending college for theatre, and I want to continue directing and script writing,” she said. “I know that I have a long ways to go, but I feel that the foundations I am building for myself with the help of Mr. P and OKP are really going to help me for the rest of my life.”
Stauffer said that her play, Prince Roland and the Quest in Which He Reluctantly Partakes, is about this boy named Prince Roland who is forced by his father, King Gilbert of Panacea, to participate in a quest to find the missing Princess Amillion of Alabaster. Along the way he meets a strange girl who has lost her memory, and a dark man with a dark purpose.
She said that she originally had written it as a story in a creative writing unit in English class in eighth grade.
“I actually intended on writing a completely different play (for the one acts), but one day I got to talking about Roland from eighth grade and decided I would try to adapt that to a piece of theater,” she said.
Stauffer said that she wanted to do this because she feels it is really a joy working on your own creation with people who truly care about making it the best it can be.
“It’s a thrill seeing what I wrote come to life,” she said. “I want to pursue a career in writing, particularly in novel writing and screenwriting. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to garner more experience in that area. This experience has been truly amazing and I am so proud of all who have helped to put on this show.”
Stauffer said that she, McGrath, and Marholin take an independent study on playwriting and this is where they all wrote the plays.
“We would show up every Day 4 during H block and show each other what we wrote,” she said. “We would provide insight, constructive criticism, and praise alike. Then we would go home and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.”
She also said that directing is a completely different experience.
“All the vulnerability and insecurities I have as a writer disappear when I am a director,” Stauffer said. “I am able to view my own work critically and am always open for changes I can make. In this way, it’s a somewhat freeing experience. I get to watch everybody create, not just myself. I always encourage my crew members to have fun while doing hard work. I never want to staunch someone’s creativity just because I stubbornly don't want to change a certain scene. That would be very selfish.”
Stauffer, a senior who next year will be a professional writing major at Champlain College, said that she doesn’t want to rule out writing plays in the future. She said that she usually prefers writing creative stories, but that she’s not picky about what she writes.
“So long as I am writing in my future, I will surely live a happy life,” she said.
Marholin, also a senior, said that writing and directing has always been a passion of his and when Prenetta gave him the opportunity to do so, he was thrilled. His play, Overruled, is a light-hearted courtroom comedy about a couple being sued for allegedly cutting down their neighbor’s tree. Despite claiming innocence, they are up against fierce opposition and matters are only made worse when the couples’ only hope is an obnoxious and seemingly motiveless lawyer named Bud Felix.
He said that when he was developing an idea for a one act play, he immediately knew that he wanted it to take place in a courtroom.
“I felt that a courtroom had a lot of potential for interesting situations while still being a single setting,” he said. “After deciding on the location, I opted to write a comedy because it was something I was more comfortable doing and I enjoy it when I can make people laugh. The goal of the script was then to put in as many silly elements as I could in order to create an unbelievable court trial. The play features absurd witnesses, an oblivious court staff, and nonstop antics from the Bud Felix character.”
According to Marholin, the experience of both writing and directing was a lot of work, but it was worth it.
“It was great to work with Erin and Kristyn leading up to production in which we edited and helped develop each other’s scripts,” he said. “Our teacher, Mr. Prenetta, also gave us invaluable help in making sure our plays were the best they could be, as well as giving us advice on how to effectively direct.”
Marholin said that the directing aspect was certainly the most rewarding.
“Nothing is quite like seeing something you have created come to life and I am eager to show others all the hard work we have put into our plays,” he said. “I am forever grateful to Mr. Prenetta and all the talented and helpful members of Opening Knight Players who made everything possible. I certainly cannot thank them enough.”