MILLIGAN COLLEGE –– Milligan College’s 25th Festival of One Act Plays is going on this week.
The week will culminate in the 12th annual film festival, featuring four films written by, directed by and starring students.
Richard Major, professor of theater at Milligan, began requiring students to direct plays in 1987, because the process of directing performances is a personal experience that is difficult to teach.
“I thought you really need to do it to understand,” Major said.
That first year six students each directed plays over the course of three nights on an outside stage.
“It was great fun and it had that true festival atmosphere to it,” Major said.
The crowd interested in watching the performances continued to grow, so the festival moved to a larger area outside. Eventually, the festival moved indoors and in 2008 it was held in the school’s new Gregory Center for the Liberal Arts, where it has remained.
An average of 150 people attend the performances each night.
The use of facilities for performances allows students to experiment with lighting and sound equipment, whereas outside performances are not necessarily geared toward the use of such components.
By 2000, Major had communications students entering his directing course, but he thought it would benefit them more to direct short films rather than plays. That was the beginning of the Milligan Film Festival.
Corri Richardson, a Milligan senior majoring in English and minoring in theater, wrote the script for one of the short films and for one of the plays featured in this year’s festivals.
“I knew I wanted to write when I was seven,” she said. “I did a comic about a superhero cat for my parents.”
Richardson and her sister put on performances for the family and also made movies. But she really enjoyed the writing part of the creative process.
“It’s just always been something I wanted to do,” she said.
Her play “For You” is about a recent college graduate whose friends are all getting married. The graduate struggles to come to terms with everyone moving on with life while she seems to be stuck; however, there is a twist she did not want to reveal.
“It’s been really cool to have my voice and my experience portrayed through someone else,” Richardson said.
The short film she wrote was a bit scarier for her, she said, because she had never done a screenplay. However, she wrote a script about a couple of old friends who had a falling out some years ago but have been forced through circumstances to spend the day together. The play highlights values and putting aside petty differences.
The script was used by film studies students, who provided actors and edited the film. Richardson will view it for the first time at the premier Friday.
Jonathan Thomas, a Milligan senior from Asheville, N.C., is a communications major with an emphasis on film studies. He worked on three of the four films in the festival.
He actually directed the opening scene of Richardson’s film.
His second film in the festival was a collaborative project he worked on with other people who attended the LA Film Studies Center this past summer called “Finding Dad.” This film is a post-apocalyptic tale about a boy seeking his father who has the cure for a disease the son has contracted.
Thomas’ other film is called “Shadow.” This film was born out of a concept Thomas has had since middle school about a superhero.
“He can turn into a shadow and go along the walls and come out of the shadow and be where he is,” Thomas said.
For Richardson and Thomas, the creative process of storytelling is something they want to pursue upon graduation.
Thomas wants to return to Los Angeles and work in the film industry.
“I’ve always had an eye for cameras and thinking about storytelling through that,” he said.
Richardson said she is not too sure what she will do, but wants her job to involve interaction with people. Any job she takes will have to give her fodder for her creative writing, she said.
“I know that whatever I end up doing to pay the bills all the time, I’ll end up writing,” Richardson said.
The Festival of One Act Plays continues tonight and Thursday at 6 each night in the McGlothlin-Street Theatre in Milligan’s Gregory Center. There will be three plays each night.
The Film Festival begins Friday at 5:30 p.m. in the McGlothlin-Street Theatre and includes one additional film, “Comedian: The Story of Sid Finch.”
All performances are free and open to the public.