Dorset Players One Act Festival expands to two weekends

The 16th annual stage celebration boasts four works in an expanded format

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DORSET — Good things come in small packages, right? Just because there is less of something, it doesn't mean the quality is diminished.

Welcome, then, to the annual rite of spring at The Dorset Players, and to one of the staples of theater everywhere. From March 29 to April 7, the Players will host their 16th annual One Act Festival, offering audiences four different set pieces, meant to entertain as well as flex the acting muscles of both stages rookies and veterans alike.

While the plays are shorter, the number of performances have increased. For the first time, the One Act Festival is running over two weekends instead of the traditional one.

Considering the upcoming slate of shows, Dorset Players past president and this year's festival producer Lynne Worth said that the one-act festival was started to afford fledgling actors and directors an opportunity to "spread their wings in a shorter format."

"The one-acts were originally started to encourage new actors and directors to join the Dorset Players without making the commitment to a longer show," Worth said. "Many of the participants have gone on to act and direct in full-length plays."

Members of the Players, Worth explained, are able to take on different assignments, from cast to crew, from directing to producing to house management. In this way they learn the theater trade "from top to bottom," she said, and the one-act plays are often the start point for new actors, but seasoned members also take part.

This year's four plays cover both the drama and comedy genres.

" H.R." by Eric Coble and directed by Janet Groom. The story focuses on an office where the dreaded term "H.R. is coming today" strikes fear in the heart of the office staff — is someone going to be fired? Starring Maripat Barlow-Layne, Joelle Greenland, Jon Mathewson and Kevin O'Toole.

"The Game" by Natalie Bates and directed by Peter Van Haverbecke and Jack Workman. Three women meet for their monthly card game — but are they really who they say they are? Starring Dawn Goetz , Debby Goldman and Danica Stein.

"A Marriage Proposal" by Anton Chekhov and directed by Don Petersen. Cheknov gives an inside look at a marriage proposal in Russia, in his own unique way, of course. Starring Erin Norton, Tom Norton and Jack Workman.

"Compos Mentis" by Marilyn Millstone and directed by Janet Groom. An older couple is being interviewed for a retirement community — but is that what they want for the rest of their lives? Starring Susan Altoft, Joelle Greenland and Kevin O'Toole.

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Local attorney O'Toole, who is acting in two of the plays and is also a co-sponsor of the festival along with Express Copy and Blue Flame, said the one-act play is a unique opportunity on many levels for all involved.

"The One Act Festival offers actors and directors an opportunity to spread their wings in a shorter format," O'Toole said during a recent break from rehearsals. "The time commitment is much less than, say, 'Oklahoma,' which is the musical the Dorset Players are mounting in late May, or even 'Witness for the Prosecution,' the Agatha Christie play of last October."

Newcomers to the Players, O'Toole continued, such as Joelle Greenland, who has some television experience, are building camaraderie. He added that beginners such as Maripat Barlow-Layne are "facing newness from the moment they read for the part." O'Toole also mentioned one additional Players rookie, Danielle Stein, who is appearing in "The Game."

But it never gets old, even for the company stalwarts.

"One actress, Debbie Goldman of Shaftsbury, has appeared in 14 out of 15 festivals," O'Toole said. "I've been at it since the start. What do we gain? The joy of creating a character and the wonderful experience of becoming a company. My fellow actors have been great and it has been a joy to get to know the new members."

Longtime Players member Janet Groom, a retired college administrator and counselor who is directing the two plays in which O'Toole is acting, came out of the rehearsal room looking for her actor, but paused a moment to reflect on the festival.

"I've directed the one-acts three times before, and typically the idea is that new directors can get their feet wet before jumping into a full play," Groom said. "Two of the new directors had to drop out and I was doing one already and agreed to pick up the second one. The fun thing is that most audience members will relate to one or more of the characters of the evening."

Perhaps speaking for everyone at the Players, Groom emphasized the festival's success and growth, before heading back to rehearsals with O'Toole.

"Along with running for a sixteenth year, this season due to audience demand the festival will run for two weekends as opposed to one weekend in the past," she said. "Hopefully, that means our audiences think we are doing something right."

The 16th Annual Dorset Players One Act Festival will take place on consecutive Fridays, March 29 and April 5, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, March 30 and April 6 at 7:30 p.m.; and Sundays, March 31 and April 7, at 2 p.m. The Dorset Playhouse is located at 104 Chaney Road. For more information, call 802-867-5570 or visit dorsetplayers.org.

Reach award-winning freelance journalist Telly Halkias at tchalkias@aol.com, Twitter: @TellyHalkias


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