Theater Students Direct, Perform in ?The Dirty Dozen?

Nairi Chopurian
El Vaquero Staff Writer

A dozen directors, a dozen plays, a dozen minutes each, all in one night, all in the one performance entitled “The Dirty Dozen” that began playing on May 31.

Professor of theater arts Ken Gray has been organizing the one-act plays for three years. Students from Gray’s Advanced Acting and Introduction to Directing class had the opportunity to recruit actors from other acting classes, were actors in and directors of the plays they chose for this event.

A combination of serious drama, dramatic humor and humorous slapstick, the plays reflect the coalesced efforts and learning experience of the students that brought this performance to life.

Respondents from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival came in on opening night and gave feedback to the actors on what they got out of the performance. Actor Bryant Cook was nominated to go on to the regional festival in February to be held in Utah, where he will compete for the Irene Ryan acting scholarship. Cook was in the piece called “Over Here,” about two men discussing their personal lives while attending Mass in church.

John Penn, director of “Over Here,” describes his experience as being a little challenging and “a pain in the ass.”

“They [the other directors] had a fundamental idea in their head of what the pieces were. I tried to do what they did, come up with a concept, but as I read the play, my concept kept changing, it kept getting altered the more I read it,” he said.

“I really wanted it to be a sort of comedy, sort of slapstick, but it turned out to be a dark comedy because of the racy dialogue,” said Penn. Though he might have had a hard time framing the play, actor Cook, under his direction, was rewarded with the KC/ACTF nomination.
Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman came together in “Where Were You.” The play, written by Brian Dembkoski, depicted the superheroes lamenting their absence during the fall of the Twin Towers on Sept. 11.

Director Misho Avramov said he chose this particular play because, “it’s a very new play and it’s related to the Sept. 11 incident. It’s just a really touchy subject . and when I read it the first time it just gave me the chills.”

Dembkoski wrote the play last October, and when he was done with the rewrites he gave his play to Gray, who he has known for many years, to give to his students.

“Once I was done, I gave it out and said “`OK, there, go,’ and stepped away from it to see what they come up with in terms of character interpretations and direction,” said Dembkoski. Dembkoski’s play entitled “The Lesbian Witches Ojai” will be playing in November.

Director Allison Matney, 23, who has had production, costume design, lighting, sound and full scale production experience from Sierra College in northern California says her goal is to become a director.