The Fourteenth Grade Players were stuck in darkness three days before opening night.
Facing a broken light board at the Lisner Downstage – a small, blackbox theater in the auditorium’s basement – just before their annual Welcome Back One-Acts would take the stage, the cast and crew made a last-minute move Tuesday to the Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre.
“It’s definitely exciting to be in a new space. It’s going to be fun to just jump in, and it’s basically do-or-die, so it’s cool,” sophomore Emily Messing, who is directing one of the three one-act plays in this year’s production, said.
Compared to the compact downstage, the theater in the Marvin Center is much larger, with stadium seating and wider stage space.
Betts Theatre poses new obstacles for the directors. Shira Herald, one of the three directors, said her one-act show was planned with the intimacy of the downstage in mind, but she hopes her actors can make it work. The sophomore was inspired to write her one-act, “Way-station,” after a six-hour bus trip. She meets a newlywed woman, and they form a friendship with lasting effects.
“I do think it’s a show where, as long as the actors work extra hard to push and engage the audience, it’s going to work in the larger setting,” she said. “I wanted to write a play about someone sitting on a bench the whole time to see if I could take that idea and make it interesting to watch.”
The second play, directed by Messing, Jonathan Rand’s “Check Please,” showcases a series of blind dates with characters like a lonely mime, a burlap-wearing hipster, a 4-year-old child and an unlucky hypochondriac. Each date starts smoothly but takes unexpected twists and turns.
The second play in this year’s lineup, “This is a Play,” takes a look into the life and mind of an actor.
“I guess the easiest, yet most complex way to say to describe this play is ‘This is a Play’ is a play about a play within a play. So it’s like ‘play-ception,’ ” sophomore director Philip Anderson said.
Anderson said he was excited by the last-minute move to Betts Theatre because it will provide an opportunity to make final adjustments to his piece’s in-the-moment comedy scenes.
Despite a change in venue, the tradition of Fourteenth Grade Players’ annual one-act plays remain. The group has consistently attracted new members through the kickoff production, building the company for the year ahead.
“There are a ton of freshmen or first-time ‘Fourteenth’ company participants, and we’re just really excited to bring in a bunch of new faces and spread the love, so to speak,” senior Peter Guren, artistic director of Fourteenth Grade Players, said.
The Welcome Back One-Acts will premiere Thursday at 8 p.m.