Brand New Theatre to present One Act Festival

“Tull-Man,” a one-act written by sophomore journalism student Dan Toomey and directed by senior theatre student Rachael McNamara, follows Charlotte as she becomes the caretaker for two family members. Photo courtesy of Savannah Harrow

From Thursday to Sunday, students can watch six original one-act plays written and directed by fellow Trojans at Brand New Theatre’s Fall 2017 One Act Festival at Massman Theatre, covering topics from encounters between ex-lovers to strangers making small talk on the subway.

Founded in 1996, Brand New Theatre is USC’s oldest theater company. Every semester, the organization lives up to its motto “Dream It. Write It. See It,” as the committee overviews the original works of many student playwrights who applied through the organization’s website at the beginning of the semester. The six selected acts are organized into one show all directed and managed by students.

“We do not pick the amount of one-acts prior to the submission deadline,” said BNT President Savannah Harrow, a senior majoring in theatre stage management. “Our team always says that we would rather produce one good one act than four one acts that are not as good.”

The six acts that will be performed this weekend are “Freddy & Olive,” written by Zoe Cheng, a junior majoring in screenwriting and columnist for the Daily Trojan; “Last Night in Town” by Julia Stier, a senior majoring in theatre; “Small Talk” by Charlie Junkins, a senior majoring in theatre and global studies; “Fruit Box” by Harrow; “Tull-Man” by Dan Toomey, a sophomore majoring in journalism; and “Two Steps Back” by Anastasia Barbato, a sophomore majoring in narrative studies. The order in which they will be presented was determined by BNT’s efforts to create a general story with the six one-acts based on the thematic through-line and a balancing of contrasting genres like drama and comedy.

Directed by Corrie Burkart, a junior majoring in theatre, “Freddy & Olive” centers around Freddy, who tries to find his sister-in-law Olive to get answers to a secret that he uncovers in his late wife’s rose garden. Under the direction of Ashley Busenlener, a junior majoring in theatre and dramatic arts, “Last Night in Town” finds two different people, Tatiana and Sirine, discussing their different lifestyles and the meaning of feeling fulfilled. Cary Reynolds, a senior majoring in theatre, directs “Small Talk,” a stage act in which characters Samar and Mike find something familiar about each other despite being completely different, all while riding the New York City subway.

“Fruit Box,” directed by Ali Appelbaum, a junior majoring in theatre, deals with former lovers Rose and Kayley’s awkward attempt to move on. Director Rachael McNamara, a senior majoring in theatre, has audiences follow Charlotte in “Tull-Man,” as she has to both care for her father Francis while a new family member Tolman enters both of their lives. When audiences see “Two Steps Back,” directed by Shane Munson, a sophomore majoring in screenwriting, they will watch as miscommunication affects college graduate Jeremy’s attempts to re-enter his peers’ dating scene.

Each of the plays seeks to find commonalities between the characters, even if they are vastly different from each other. According to Harrow, this overlying thematic element came naturally with the ideas that students submitted when applying to be part of this event. She allowed the student playwrights to write about subjects that interest them, and for her, the results have never disappointed. Those working on these plays have something that they want the audience to take away from the production.

“I hope the audience looks at strangers differently,” Junkins said about his play “Small Talk.” “I hope the audience looks at strangers as nuanced individuals who are each the center of his or her own story, and that a stranger’s story is just as human as their own. I believe this is the first step to cultivating empathetic perspectives and combating violence.”

A suggested $5 donation can be made as one enters the door. Prior to Thursday, Brand New Theatre set up a fundraising page on where people could donate as they wish to help fund this event. The student-run organization included incentives to encourage donations such as two complimentary tickets for a $25 donation. The fundraiser’s description states the donations will go toward the costs associated with simultaneously producing six distinct shows.

The first show will be held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. On Friday, the showings will be at 7:30 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. On Saturday, there will be two chances to see these six acts at 2:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. while the last opportunity will be on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.