UACT to announce winners of playwriting contest

Published by Peyton Manning on

UACT: 10 Minute Playwriting Contest Poster
Photo provided by UACT

UACT to announce winners of playwriting contest

The pandemic pushed the limits of the local theater to a near breaking point. However, Umpqua Actors Community Theatre (UACT) evolved and continues to overcome the obstacles that present themselves. 

The community theater strives to persevere during its hardest times. “It’s a desire to do something different,” said UACT President Marty Follose. “It’s a desire to do something – anything.”

A full play was a little too difficult to do over Zoom during the pandemic, so the members of UACT presented the community a chance to be playwrights instead. “We didn’t want to start with a full play, so we wanted to do a ten minute play. Then someone suggested a contest,” Follose said.

The contest was for anyone who wanted to write a short play. Each play only allowed about two to three characters. The plays were submitted to UACT prior to Oct. 15, and the winners of the contest will be announced by Friday, Oct. 30.

Follose awaits the production of the plays with excitement. “Some of them I can’t wait to see,” he said. One of the things Follose examined while reading the plays was production value. “Some will be easy to produce and some difficult to produce,” he said.

He and the other UACT members hope to learn from these competition entries. Since the winning plays will be acted out over a Zoom call by a cast chosen by UACT, complications are expected. This is a new way to act, after all. For example, the actors will leave the Zoom call “stage” when done with their scene and then return to the Zoom call “stage” for their next scene. “Every time you hide your camera feed and come back in, you come in last,” he said. “What you see is not what everyone else sees.”

Because of the need for precise timings in spite of Wi-Fi instability, UACT plans to pre-record the plays before streaming them to the public. Follose mentioned that the theater may try to do live recordings in the future, but he wants to start small to learn from the experience.

Each play will also vary in level of complication due to settings. Certain scenes are not realistic over a Zoom call. 

Actors also must consider eye and body placement in a new way with Zoom. They must be consistent in where they put their eyes and the way they face their body for the show to make sense to the audience.

Because the theater must keep social distancing in mind, members were precast rather than allowing auditions. This was also why the playwrights were requested to use small casts.

UACT Executive Director Melody Schwegel has also written a new Christmas play for UACT called “Dear Santa.” 

Her play develops around Jack the elf as he is promoted to head-elf. The story showcases him handling over 50 million letters that have been delivered to Santa, and he must call upon three other elves to aid him in responding to all of them before Christmas. And, as Schwegel said, there are tons of puns.

The play will have showings Friday, Saturday, and Sunday on the weekends of Dec. 4 and Dec. 11. The shows start at 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays. 

Ticket sales start on Nov. 13. 

The performance will be live, and Schwegel said that UACT won’t tolerate audience members without masks. The experience of the show also allows people to be socially distanced, leaving the capacity in the theater at about 40 people. 

Other than during rehearsals, actors will not wear masks because of the difficulty in performing. However, the performance attempts to keep them a safe six foot distance from one another during the entirety of the show. 

UACT has tried to create unique ideas to combat the difference from this year to last year. “There aren’t as many activities during the holiday that we’re used to,” said Schwegel. 

Originally, Schwegel did not plan on creating a play. UACT had planned on creating a more music heavy show.

However, the idea for UACT’s Christmas production evolved after Schwegel and others spoke about it. With the details for the story, Schwegel reimagined the story the next day. “I spent the entire day writing a 50 page script,” she said. “It also turned out to be a bigger play than anticipated.”

However, even though writing the play came out easier than expected, she feared what others would think of her draft. Fortunately, she has come to change her thinking on the topic after the UACT team approved her project.

“It’s okay to make mistakes,” she said. “I’ve talked to Martin Follose, and he’s proofread nearly every draft.”

She took what Follose suggested and adjusted her play. Regarding his suggestions, she said that “it’s not harsh criticism. It’s constructive criticism.”

She speaks out to new playwrights on all of this. She made it clear that writing plays can be frightening, but the writer must continue writing and developing. “I’ve changed the script about seven times in the last three weeks. It keeps on developing.”

Tickets for the Christmas production can be purchased starting Nov. 13 by going to the UACT website, calling in at 541-673-2125, or by going in person to the UACT Box Office located at 1614 West Harvard Avenue.

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