Unleashed: Ike students try their hand at directing with one-acts

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The four lead actors of “So You Wanna Be A Cheerleader” are, from left, Aidan Yolo, Isabella Parker, Alma Martinez and Skyler Heniquez.

YAKIMA, Wash. -- After being an actor for so long, having the chance as a high school student to be a director is a whole different ball game.

While I was rehearsing and preparing for this past spring’s “Seussical the Musical” at Eisenhower High School, I was pulled aside by the head of the drama department and director of the productions, Janey Peterson, and was told I had been selected to be among those to direct one of the upcoming student-directed one-act plays. A one-act is just a short play that’s about a half-hour long, and those performances are now happening at the school this Thursday through Saturday.

I haven’t really had my chance at directing a show before, so I was super excited a few months ago when I received that news. Eisenhower seniors Alberto Lechuga and Nicole Cash were also picked to direct their own show. We all went online and found a professional playwright business that supplies scripts for short plays and, within a few weeks, the three of us picked which productions to bring to local theater fans.

Starting the night of entertainment will be “Dystopia! The Hungry Maze Game of Divergent Death,” written by Don Zolidis. Directed by Cash, this short play is about a crazy “survival of the fittest” teenage game show set in a dystopian future, complete with emotionally sensitive guards, limited budgets and a trigger-
happy gamemaster.

Second in the lineup is my show, “So You Wanna Be A Cheerleader,” written by M.G. Davidson. This play is about a cheerleading captain named Britney and her squad members (Britnee, Brittani and ... Kevin) who are trying to find a fifth member so they can compete at nationals. After the tryouts are opened to the whole school, the group has to try to select from a “talent pool” that includes a football player with a head injury, an eccentric goth boy, a nerd with a vendetta and a boy who wants to be a meme. (Yes, you read that right.)

The last show is “Things Fall (Meanwhile),” written by Barton Bishop. Directed by Lechuga, this story is about a show of lives and stories colliding in multiple ways to create an interesting and hilarious tale.

These one-acts are 100 percent student directed. In addition to selecting our own scripts, Lechuga, Cash and I handled the auditioning and casting process and ran rehearsals.

While the three of us have been actors, none of us has ever directed a show until now. All three of us have discovered that there is so much that goes into being a director that you don’t normally think about when you are there as an actor. For these annual spring one-acts, it’s a rule at Ike that the student directors aren’t allowed to ask staff for help. Of course, you can ask other theater connections for assistance — like the professional directors do — but you cannot have help from Ike staff.

This process teaches us to be independent and to establish more connections in the theater department. It’s a process in which high school students are in charge of gathering costumes, figuring out the lighting for the show and basically anything you could think of that a show needs.

Helping put together these one-acts can be very stressful at times — especially when maybe your cast members don’t want to listen because you aren’t a “professional director” but, rather, their peer. While this can be challenging, things do usually come together pretty quickly to help result in a great show.

I know that Lechuga, Cash and I are ecstatic to show the community our plays and entertain the audiences. The three of us have worked extremely hard on preparing these one-acts.

And, after all is said and done, I guess I get to now add “director” to my repertoire.

• Sierra Hutton, a senior at Eisenhower High School and a director for one of this week’s one-act plays at the school, is a member of the Yakima Herald-Republic’s Unleashed program for teen journalists.

If you go

WHAT: Eisenhower High School Student-Directed One-Acts.

WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, and 2 p.m. Saturday.

WHERE: Eisenhower High School Theatre, 611 S. 44th Ave., Yakima.

COST: $5.

BE AWARE: Some parts of some One Acts have strong language and adult humor.

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