One-Act “American Blues” Plays Spotlight the Voice

Last weekend, several Upper School drama students wowed audiences in Vincent Price Theatre during their student-directed one-act plays. The overall show name, American Blues, is a nod to how the plays showcase the voices of some of the best American playwrights of the 20th century. Each of the acts was selected because they addressed how we use our voice. Sometimes, we speak to tell stories; sometimes, we speak to soothe ourselves or others. Sometimes, the voice goes unheard, and sometimes, a simple spoken phrase has consequences of biblical proportions.

Students showcased how the voice is used over the following five acts:

  • This Property is Condemned by Tennessee Williams is about two young people meeting on a set of railroad tracks in the deep South during the Great Depression.
  • The Blue Hour: City Sketches by David Mamet is a series of vignettes about people in big cities trying to connect.
  • Killer’s Head by Sam Shepard is a monologue about horses and trucks delivered by a man in an electric chair waiting for his execution.
  • Dark Pony by David Mamet is about a father and daughter on a road trip.
  • Poof! by Lynn Nottage is a domestic drama/comedy about a woman who can no longer abide by her abusive husband and talks back for the first time, with disastrous consequences (at least for him).

With students embracing the opportunity to direct these plays and lead crew members, it was a very rewarding experience for all. Patrick Huber, Upper School Fine & Performing Arts Teacher, said, “I learned two years ago during the depths of the pandemic that students will rise to your expectations. That insight helped me take a leap of faith in five students this year to act as directors, and it paid off. We also had students in the roles of technical director, lighting and set designer, and costumer. Every one of them stepped up!”

While we’re mentioning stepping up, one of the student directors rose to the occasion. Jada Greer ’23 said, “Out of all five student directors (Keller Goldstein ’23, Ash Aranha ’23, Abby Gray ’24, Eliza Dorf ’23, and myself), I had the least amount of directing and technical theater experience—which was intimidating! I have been in acting class for four years, but I immediately discovered that directing requires a completely different muscle than what acting requires. It began very difficult but became so fun. The five of us got to do our own advertising, casting, and sets, while working with other student-led departments in order to complete our vision with costuming, sound, and lighting. Mr. Huber gave us a lot of independence, and in the end, it was so satisfying to see it all come together. I really discovered a love of directing and I am looking forward to pursuing it in the future.”

Sahar Bhutto ’24 also was challenged by the plays and proud of her contribution to the shows. “I think that even though being the lighting designer for the one-acts was stressful at times, it was a really cool experience overall,” she said. “Working with the student directors to try to make their vision come to life even more was really fun, and it was nice knowing I was able to contribute to the essence of the show. Working tech for the shows has been a great opportunity, and I hope to continue to do so!”

“Being an actor for two plays was hard but rewarding,” adds Samuel Glasser ’26. “Notably, I learned that directors put in a lot of work, and you [as an actor or actress] are their way of expressing that work. Also, when performing, the reward of seeing your and the directors’ vision come to life is a feeling unlike any other!”

Check out the program for more details here.

Bravo, students!