DASSEL-COKATO, MN Putting on a great show usually involves more than memorizing a few lines. Actors have to connect with the characters they’re playing, remember where to stand and how to move around the stage, and, in the case of some Dassel-Cokato performing arts students, how to pull off an entire production in exactly 35 minutes.
A small cast of DC students has been preparing “An Anatomy of Gray” for this year’s upcoming one-act play competition, which will take place Saturday, Jan. 25 at the St. Peter high school.
A free public performance will be given at the DC Performing Arts Center Thursday, Jan. 30 at 7 p.m.
“Anatomy of Gray,” a two-act play by Jim Leonard Jr., is set in the 1880s in the small town of Gray, IN, and follows the lives of a colorful cast of townspeople, including the fiesty June Muldoon, played by Lauren Densmore.
After her father dies, the grieving June wishes for a doctor to come to town so “nobody will ever die again.” Her wish is answered in an unexpected way when a surprisingly hemophobic doctor, Galen P. Gray (Jubal Nelson), crashes near the town in a hot-air balloon.
The play is unique as characters frequently break the fourth-wall to narrate events to the audience and comment on the story.
For the one-act play competition, the whole set has to fit into a 10-foot-by-10-foot square, and the production is timed to the minute, with only 10 minutes allowed to set up and take down the set, and 35 minutes to perform.
Since the original script is 90 minutes long, it had to be cut down to 35 minutes while still capturing the story in a meaningful way.
Other than making sure the cast follows the set time requirements, “everyone’s opinion is different,” said director James Frickstad, of what the judges will be looking for. He said every judge has different standards for a one-act, so it can be hard to know how well the cast will do in the competition.
That doesn’t worry Frickstad, who said he doesn’t want to focus too much on the competitive aspect of the show. For him and his cast, he said, “The main reason to do a one-act is for educational purposes and to put on the best show you’re able to.”
Frickstad likes to add music to his one-acts, which gives them a bit of flair and makes them stand out from the competition. This year’s play, he said, “has a mixture of pre-recorded and live music.”
Frickstad chose the play because he was looking for something challenging yet doable, and because it has a good balance of tragedy and comedy, which, he said, is what makes a good play.
“My hope is just that the audience [and judges] can connect with the characters,” he said.