November 30, 2021

Teens to debut one-act plays

Annual festival opens tonight at Cortland High

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

From left, Nick DeRado, eighth grade, Joe Cataldo, eighth grade, John Gesin, senior and Isabella Mendez, junior, rehearse their one act play Tuesday at Cortland Junior Senior High School.

Writing “One Fact Act,” with his cousin Nate was “time consuming, fun, and a good way to be creative,” said 14-year-old Nick DeRado.

“It seems like every time we sat down, we had another block,” said Nate DeRado, 16, a Cortland 11th-grader. “But we needed each other to fill it out.”

The pair wrote a comedy of two brothers who go to a party. One brother discovers something about the older brother and “a bunch of crazy stuff happens,” Nick DeRado said.

“When you are writing it, you think it’s going to be one way. The actors do it another
way,” he said. “And it’s great.”

Cortland High students, and one teacher, will see their one-act plays, which they wrote and directed, come to life with their fellow students as actors.

The 19th annual One Act Festival will take place 7 p.m. tonight and 2 p.m. Saturday at the Cortland High auditorium. Admission is free., but donations will fund student scholarships.

Susie Carr-Feuerherm, co-director of the One-Act Festival, said this year’s slate of plays are “really good, really diverse.”

The one acts

• “Zen to Go? I Don’t Think So!” by Robert Gambitta, Cortland Junior High School teacher
• ”I Can’t See the Clouds Anymore,” by Michaella Ferro
• “Dancing with Death,” by Michaella Ferro
• “World Love and War,” by Tara McMahon
• “Alex and the Many Tails,” by Tara McMahon
• “A Punderful Play,” by Teodora Buzea
• “A Boy Named Leona,” by Vinnie Christian
• “One Fat Act,” by Nate and Nick DeRado

The students started their works in some cases, last year. Others started in January or later. “It’s all extracurricular,” said Megan Bottle, teacher adviser of the festival. And it’s pretty much student-run.

“I like that there’s a broad range of topics,” Bottle said.

Students are casting the roles, directing and working the stage.

Demmarie Boreland, a co-director who is “the queen of one-acts,” said Carr-Feuerherm, is helping the teens. She’s written several short plays for the Cortland Youth Bureau summer drama program.

What makes a good one act is “solid script writing, which we’ve got a lot of,” Boreland said. But then it comes down to the whole cast, and a lot of work.

“You have to map it out in your head before you sit down to write,” said Michaella Ferro, 18, a senior, author of “Dancing with Death” and “I Can’t See the Clouds Anymore,” “There’s a lot of editing, after you write it out and you are reading it back. And live editing, watching it up on stage.”

“It’s a very interactive experience,” said Teodora Buzea, 18, a senior, author of “A Punderful Play.” “You are always trying to see how it will work on stage and if people will understand what you are saying.”

“It was definitely stressful for one thing,” said junior Tara McMahon, 16, author of “World Love and War” and “Alex and the Many Tails.”

“Everything came together. It was most gratifying for me to see my peers come together and (give themselves over) to this beautiful thing. It makes me happy.”

“It’s pretty amazing, you really get to see your story come to life,” Ferro said.

Robert Gambitta, a junior high teacher, heard the request for submissions over the morning announcements and asked Bottle if he could partake, though he’s never written a play. She said of course.

Gambitta thought of a five-character skit he acted out himself years ago. He wrote. Bottle approved.

When he asked a student to be in it, the boy declined. The kid said, ‘No, I can’t. I’m too busy.’ But then he read it and said, ‘I want to be in this.’ Other kids said the same, Gambitta said.

“I am loving the whole experience,” Gambitta said. “I’m so impressed with how hard these kids work. “These kids are here three, 3 1/2 hours every night on a school night.”