One Act Play Festival to feature student directors, casts and crews


Courtesy of Iowa State Department of Music and Theater

The One Act Play Festival runs March 3-6 at Fisher Theater. 

Eleanor Chalstrom

In anticipation of Iowa State’s One Act Play Festival, student directors shared their insight and motivations before the event kicks off March 3-6.

The One Act Play Festival highlights plays the students of the Advanced Directing course at Iowa State have brought to life.

The student directors began their production process during winter break by researching and choosing what plays they wanted to produce. From there, they cast their plays with student actors, worked with stage crews and produced their visions step-by-step.

Brad Dell is the Chair of the Department of Music and Theater at Iowa State and the instructor of Advanced Directing. All of the directors are students of the course.

“I think it’s a great thing for folks whether they go on to direct plays or whether they are just going out into the world, no matter their career choice,” Dell said.

Many of the plays were written within the past decade by underground playwrights. They aim to add commentary on modern life and highlight issues facing today’s youth.

“I think it’s really thrilling that audiences are getting to see what college students of today are excited about and what playwrights are writing about,” Dell said. “Audiences get to see this kind of fresh, new work.”

Morgan Reetz is directing one of the featured one-act plays, “Captivity.” Written by Peter Sonenstein, the play highlights the story of two tigers living in a zoo yearning for life outside their exhibit.

Reetz said that she wants audiences to walk away from the performance understanding themes of freedom and expression.

“I think it’s really relatable in the way that the main character, Joey, feels so trapped and like he’s not in the right place and he needs to get out to feel his natural instincts. He feels like he can’t be himself. I think a lot of us can relate to that feeling, especially within the past two years,” Reetz said.

Reetz said the biggest challenge in directing the show was fully conceptualizing the animalistic roles while maintaining a sense of believability.

“I am just impressed with myself, and all of the other directors should be proud of themselves too. We have all worked really hard in such a short amount of time to put these together,” Reetz said.

“Where is the Bus?” by Iowa State student Grant Tetmeyer is another featured play in the festival. It follows characters Violet and Nick, who have died and are navigating an afterlife realm with the help of their guide, Martin.

“I like it because it really makes the audience think about what happens in the afterlife. We have people who believe in this and that. Can we find a common ground?” said Ashley Oxenreider, director of the play.

Oxenreider said she got experimental in her production process. She filmed and studied a bus stop for multiple hours to understand human movement and interactions. She used this study tactic to block and stage the actors methodically.

Oxenreider is most looking forward to the festival so she can see her work come together on stage.

“I’m nervous but excited because this is actually the first time my stuff will be on stage and I can hear how the audience reacts,” Oxenreider said.

Heaven Booker is the director of “Black Prometheus.” For her, the theater has always been the right path.

“I knew that I didn’t want to do anything that was more of a nine to five job. That’s just not me. I feel like I was born for the stage and the arts,” Booker said.

“Black Prometheus” is a psychological drama that follows the story of two Black characters trapped in a simulation where they are killed repeatedly.

“The play touches on a ton of different experiences that Black people have to go through, such as police brutality and international travel as a Black person…and interracial dating,” Booker said. “So with those multiple themes, I feel like we’ll be able to touch different people in the audience, and they will be able to learn something.”

Booker said the most fulfilling thing about the production process is seeing her cast develop the story and research how to give the play justice.

“When you’re a director, you get to see the other actors kind of evolve these characters in the story in maybe a different way than you probably saw it,” Booker said. “What makes me happy at rehearsals is when we do read-throughs of the show and I can just hear the words come out of my casts’ mouths. I can see the energy and love they have for it.”

Opal Rustad is directing “I Love an Earthling” by Rex McGregor. The play is about an outer-space alien who falls in love with a human, launching him into a series of comedic blunders.

Rustad said that in the past, she had directed plays where she wore all the hats in the past. With this play, she had the help of set designers, costumers, stage managers and lighting designers who helped bring her vision to life.

Rustad said she is excited to share her and her teams’ work with audiences.

“I just hope they have fun and hopefully are entertained. This is a really great way to expose yourself to theater because there are just so many different plays and a huge variety that there’s a little bit of something for everyone,” Rustad said.

Kathrynn Ripley is directing “Cuckoo Clock,” a play about first dates and the feelings that ensue when two people kick off a romantic relationship. Ripley said it is filled with laughable moments and heartfelt absurdity.

“I definitely want people to feel the awkwardness of a first date because a lot of people have been there. I want people to feel joy. It’s such a funny play, and I love making people laugh. So, I hope we can convey that to an audience,” Ripley said.

The festival is scheduled for March 3-6 and will be performed at Fisher Theater for the first time in the festivals’ 17-year history.

Other featured plays are “Pigeons,” “This Almost Joy,” “Better than the Movie,” and “Three Assassins Walk into a Bar, Right?”

The plays are organized into two groups that perform every other night of the festival. The full schedule, cast list and other details are on the festivals’ website.