BY ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
In a couple of weeks, Morgan Hoag and Alohi Tombleson will be published playwrights.
Given that they are a junior and sophomore at McNary High School, respectively, this is no small feat.
“Ohmigosh, I feel like I’m going to die of happiness,” said Hoag, who trembled with excitement when asked about how it feels leading up to the debut of McNary’s One Acts Festival. “It feels awesome because a lot of times when you’re writing, you feel like it’s terrible, and then to have someone else enjoy it and pick it to be performed is amazing.”
Hoag’s story takes place in the aftermath of a fatal car accident as the main character struggles to move forward. Hoag and Tombleson both wrote one act plays as part of a playwriting class last fall and were selected by Dallas Myers, the school’s drama director, to have their work performed in the One Act Festival which debuts Friday, March 13.
Tombleson was an early selection for her script The Courtroom in which the main character ends up on trial by the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
“We only had to include one of the horsemen for the assignment, but I read an article about another play that took place in a courtroom and that opened up the possibility of using all of them,” Tombleson said. “I’m overjoyed, I immediately told my mom and my family and started writing another play.”
In addition to student writing, McNary thespians are taking the director’s chair.
Senior John Bryant said Hoag’s script spoke to him immediately.
“I could have done a comedy, but I wanted something that could connect emotionally. I am trying to center all the visuals around Amber (the main character) and the isolation she’s imposing on herself and struggle against recovery,” Bryant said. “I told myself last year when we did the one acts that I wanted to direct this year, but now it’s exhilarating and nerve-wracking all at once.”
Morgan Raymond is directing The Courtroom. As a dancer, she’s putting a lot of focus on the actors’ movement.
“I’ve talked with them a lot about what the horsemen represent and want them to use their voice and body language to inhabit the characters. It’s kind of crazy to call myself a director, but I like it more than acting and being up there myself,” Raymond said.
Myers said the One Act Festival serves three purposes: it gives freshman and sophomore students their time in the spotlight, lets upperclassmen direct performances and it’s relatively low budget.
Producing student work means the drama department doesn’t need to pay the sometimes steep royalties for each performance. For the whole run, it will end up costing the department about $500.
“For Legally Blonde, the production rights alone were $5,600,” Myers said. “The good thing was the ticket sales covered it. It was the most successful musical we’ve had since I started at the school five years ago.”
It might come as something of a surprise to learn that McNary’s drama department survives on ticket sales alone. Whatever profits it turns finance future productions as well as smaller trips to thespian festivals and outings to other local productions.
“I try not to turn a lot of those costs over to students, but there are times when we have to do it,” he said.
McNary’s annual Knight of Arts fundraiser – set for Saturday, March 7 – helps provide a cushion in the event of a shortfall, but the Fine Arts Department is also hoping to install a closed circuit camera system that will enhance the ability to record high-quality renditions of every performance on the Ken Collins stage.
The largest costs, year-in and year-out, come from lighting and paint.
“We spent $500 on paint for Legally Blonde. Some of the lumber we use to build sets is special order,” he said. “Even things like painter’s tape and masking tape add up.”
However, there are also some occasions when Oregon’s tight-knit high school theatre community can come to the rescue. Last year, McNary put together an extravagant steampunk production of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Most of the equipment is now on loan to St. Helens High School.
“We really do try to pay it forward. And, every year, we are putting more and more of an emphasis on making things that we can reuse for future productions,” Myers said.