Opening Knight Players to demonstrate 'speed acting'

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Ellington - posted Fri., Oct. 11, 2013
Opening Knight Players (l-r) Brianna Fraser, Olivia Gionet and Erin Millane rehearse one of 30 plays the troupe will be performing in one hour on Oct. 18 and 19. Photos by Steve Smith.
Opening Knight Players (l-r) Brianna Fraser, Olivia Gionet and Erin Millane rehearse one of 30 plays the troupe will be performing in one hour on Oct. 18 and 19. Photos by Steve Smith.

Audience members attending the Opening Knight Players will get a bargain on Oct. 18 and 19. They will see 30 plays for the price of one. The players are busy writing, re-writing, blocking and rehearsing 30 plays that will be performed in one hour (hopefully), in the show titled "30x60."

The drama club is divided into six groups of about 10 members. Each group must come up with five short plays with an average running time of two minutes. Actually, they need to be closer to about 90 seconds, explained senior Katy Roets, one of the group leaders, because the transition time does not stop the clock.

"They really have to be about one minute, 30 seconds," Roets said, adding that while most of them are comedic in nature, the group does not call their mini-productions "skits," because they are to have a complete plot line, with distinct characters. The subject matter is also a broad cross-section.

Sophomore Tyler Hubley, another group leader, said the criteria for each play is simply that they be under three minutes (but averaging under two), and be suitable for a family audience.

"A lot of our plays involve things people can relate to on TV, like the AllState commercials," he said, adding that a popular Snickers commercial is also in the mix. "There are a lot of things that reference pop culture, that people will get."

The groups are responsible for creating their plays – writing, acting, and blocking, as well as scheduling their own rehearsal time (and space) – with almost no help from OKP advisor William Prenetta, who makes just a few minor suggestions. Prenetta said he has the group do this sort of production every few years, as a good way to get new students invlolved in theatre, and as a change from performing one-act plays.

Hubley said the challenge for him is to be authoritative – something he is not accustomed to.

"The biggest challenge is that Mr. Prenetta normally does everything," he said. "You don't feel, as a student, that you can tell other students what to do. It's difficult trying to get them to focus, but now we're getting there, because we have less than a week."

The audience also plays a part in the production. The plays are listed by title and number in the program. Between plays, the audience members will call out the numbers of the next play they'd like to see. Moderators will select the first number they hear, and the actors will have to begin the play as soon as possible.

The plays all end when one of the actors says "gizmo," cueing the audience to begin shouting out numbers.

"We also have to come up with clever titles, to make the audience intrigued to see our shows," Roets said.

If the troupe successfully performs all 30 plays in 60 minutes or less, a lucky audience member will win a prize package. "We usually make it," Roets said, adding that some of the challenges include the groups interacting and trying to work around each other on stage.
"We call it organized chaos," she said. "We have to practice our movements so we don't trip on each other or knock each other over. We're moving quickly, but not killing each other."

Roets said she likes what she's seen from her group and others. "The creativity coming from the students has been so great," she said.

The Opening Knight Players will present "30 x 60" on Oct. 18 and 19 at 7:30 p.m., in the Gordon C. Getchell Auditorium. Tickets are $8 for general admission and $6 for students and senior citizens.

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