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One-Act Festival presents paired plays

Carroll Community College students Joshua Hopkins and Alex Beveridge have worked together on a number of theater productions together, including "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and an original production of "Reservoir Dogs." Now, in time for the college's One-Act Festival on Friday and Saturday, the pair is splitting up to direct two sister-plays, featuring adjacent characters in the same world.

The One-Act Festival is a recurring feature of the Carroll Community College theater department's spring box office. Beveridge will tackle the show "Laundry and Bourbon," while Hopkins directs "Lone Star," with both plays written by James McLure. In between these productions, returning director Steven Somers will direct scenes from "An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein."

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In the past, the festival has featured more than five shows run together, but this year they decided to focus on three longer pieces, directed by two students and one returning director, according to Performing Arts Chair Bill Gillett.

Gillett said it can be tough to identify which students are ready to direct, so this year, they decided to focus on those with a fair amount of experience.

"This is a great opportunity for students to take ownership over their own work," Gillett said. "We do student productions in the black box theater, but this is a great chance to get a fully supported, full-fledged production that we do very seriously."

"Laundry and Bourbon" and "Lone Star" are companion plays that feature alternate angles on the same story. The first show tells the story of Elizabeth, a lonely housewife whose Vietnam veteran husband has gone missing with a woman from town. She's visited by two gossipy neighbors, and the three discuss the directions their lives have turned. In contrast, "Lone Star" follows Elizabeth's husband Roy, drinking and fighting with his younger brother and the husband of one of Elizabeth's neighbors.

Hopkins, of Hanover, Pa., said he first discovered the show when he performed a scene from it in Gillett's class.

"I fell in love right away," Hopkins said. "We didn't have a lot of people who wanted to direct, so Bill asked if I wanted to do something longer and immediately jumped to 'Lone Star.'"

Once "Lone Star" was selected, "Laundry and Bourbon" was an obvious choice to complete the duology, Gillett said.

He tapped Alex Beveridge, of New Windsor, to tackle "Laundry," based on his and Hopkins' work in the past. Beveridge said the one-act format leads to some difficulties in the directorial process but the end result is worth the pain.

"It's a 55-minute-long scene. It's just three people doing straight dialog with no gimmicks or anything to distract," Beveridge said. "It's hard for them to memorize it all, and I've had to find ways to give them motivation and energy after 55 minutes of being on stage."

Beveridge said he's a fan of conversation pieces and the unique format of the play allowed him to focus all of his attention on his actors, while ignoring distractions like scene changes or continuity.

"I had never worked with a small cast before," Beveridge said. "It became very intimate, and they all worked well with each other. We really got to dive into their characters."

Rounding out the festival is "An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein," six short R-rated scenes from the master of children's poetry. The pieces feature Silverstein's trademark playfulness with language, while tackling some darker topics than his normal fare. These scenes are interspersed throughout the festival, appearing before, between and after the longer one-acts.

Somers, a former student at the college who had kept in touch with Gillett, is directing these pieces. Somers said this was an opportunity for him to try something new.

"My first show ever on-stage at Carroll was six years ago," Somers said. "Working with younger actors is such a different experience. It gives me a chance to teach, and I really enjoy that."

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With only a couple minutes to tell Silverstein's stories, Somers said, it was difficult to get in, reach the punchline or central conceit, and get back out.

"They're like self-contained plays. It's really hard to time, so I'm grateful for our stage manager," Somers said. "Some are static, some are silly, some are serious, while some deal with deep seated issues. Between my piece and the other shows, that's a wide variety of theater."

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If You Go

What: One-Act Festival

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 1 and Saturday, May 2

Where: Scott Theater, Carroll Community College, 1601 Washington Road, Westminster

Cost: Free

For more information: Visit http://www.carrollcc.edu or call 410-386-8575.

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