Perrysburg offers annual Winter One ActsWritten by Guest Author | | GuestAuthor@toledofreepress.com
By Chase Will
Perrysburg High School’s (PHS) 28th annual Winter One Acts is a show that changes each year and has received eight superior ratings at the Ohio Theatre Alliance play festival.
“These plays appeal to anyone, whether they’re 1 or 100,” said Robert Gentry, director of the PHS theater department and founder of Winter One Acts. While selecting plays for the program each year, Gentry said one of his main considerations is variety. A range of offerings allowed him to cast 48 students in roles that suit their unique styles.
The show will be performed in the round, which means the audience is seated onstage facing the actors from three sides. Gentry said this creates an intimate atmosphere where the students can engage with the audience more easily.
“It’s a real ‘secrets revealed’ experience,” Gentry said. “The audience can see where the actors enter from and who’s behind the scenes controlling the lighting.”
The show is set for 8 p.m. Jan. 23-25, 30-31 and Feb. 1 with 2 p.m. matinees on Jan. 26 and Feb. 2 at Perrysburg High School, 13385 Roachton Road. Tickets go on sale Jan. 20 at the PHS box office, open Monday-Thursday from 7-8 p.m. Cost varies from $6-$7, depending on seat location.
Two of the plays are comedic, but each offers different humor. The first, “10 Ways to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse,” demonstrates survival strategies such as “romance the zombies” and “reason with them,” while parodying popular horror clichés such as overstating emotions and discovering an arsenal of secret government weapons.
“My favorite part is the two brainless characters who don’t get attacked,” said Zach Ibarra, the show’s student director. Ibarra has previously directed two short plays, and said his main challenge for this production was finding ways to give each zombie a specific character trait.
The second comedy, “Of Widows and Vegetables,” follows the downfall of a man who marries widows for their riches and then promptly disposes of them. This show is written in the tradition of commedia dell‘arte, an improvisational style with humor comparable to “The Three Stooges.” The narrator is Harlequin, a devious but charming character who leads the old man to “death by tap-dancing” with the aid of his slapstick companion, Pedro.
“It makes no sense, so it keeps everyone guessing,” said Connor Leupp, who plays Harlequin.
His best friend Noah Tye was cast as Pedro, adding to their characters’ chemistry.
“We were really able to play off each other and build it up,” Leupp said.
The third show, “Thistle Blossoms,” details the emotional weight placed on a teacher when his student turns in an essay describing her planned suicide, prompting him to intervene.
“The biggest challenge was getting serious and connecting with a character who’s unlike me in most ways,” said Connor Treece, a junior at PHS who plays the teacher. He said his favorite part of rehearsals has been working closely with Gentry and developing his process. Treece previously played Seymour in “Little Shop of Horrors,” another PHS production directed by Gentry.
“He focused on each one of us and our acting abilities,” Treece said of Gentry’s style.
During rehearsal, Gentry and his student directors hone in on every detail, finding ways to play up the humor while leaving room for the audience to process more serious moments. The teamwork put into each show, as well as the optimism of the students as they listen to Gentry’s post-rehearsal notes, leaves little doubt of their enjoyment of the process.
“Before I came here, there was only reader’s theater at the high school,” Gentry said, referring to the style of reading from a script with little audience interaction. “Students interested in performance were hungry for opportunity. It’s got to be fun for them, but they also want to be part of something great.”
Tags: Ohio Theatre Alliance, Perrysburg High School, Perrysburg High School’s (PHS) 28th annual Winter One Acts, Robert Gentry director of the PHS theater department and founder of Winter One Acts, Zombie Apocalypse, “Little Shop of Horrors”