For two weekends, you will have the chance to experience live one-act plays in Wayne County. Center Stage Theatre will perform One Acts 2021 at the Wayne County Museum on July 23-25. Spotlight Theatre will present A Night of One Acts at the Sabre Cinema on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base on July 30-31.

I asked many of those who have been involved in one-act plays about what makes them special. This article is compiled and edited from their responses.

Gene McLendon started the CST One Act Festival in 2011 to offer a learning opportunity for playwriting. He served as primary director, using guest directors for individual plays, providing a platform for budding directors to test their skills.

The production budget of $0.00 was intended to foster creativity in novice directors and in all technical aspects of playwriting.

Janelle and James Donovan founded The Spotlight Theatre Company in 2017, with the goal of bringing the theater and the arts to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. They consider that doing one-act plays helps with the progression of each actor’s performance skills. Individuals can expand their different talents in writing for the stage, as well as acting. New actors along with those who may be overlooked because of age or ethnicity can receive roles.

Several past CST One Acts participants presented their thoughts.

Patricia Barta likes playing different roles in one show. Choreographer and dancer Crystal Hodges sees the One Acts as an outlet to explore different genres of music and choreography for those willing to step out of their comfort zone. It is the freedom to express ideas and take the audience with you on the journey. Aeris Carter said the One Acts enable playwrights to bring their creative visions to life. CST performs nontraditional pieces that reflect the vibrant and diverse personalities of the community. Performers receive the opportunity to experiment with unique roles and avoid monotony or typecasting.

Among current participants, Venessa Therrien loves that her daughter Jordan gets to reach beyond what is expected of most teenagers, being seen as an equal on the stage and behind the scenes. She gains confidence and grows as a young adult. Karen Howell is happy both to participate and to have her play performed. Debbie McLendon enjoys the wacky plays. “The wackier the better!” Sequilla Arita calls the One Acts her favorites, having allowed her to fulfill her dream to sing opera on a Goldsboro stage.

Kenan Stewart, CST One Acts director for 2021, responded with an extended voice recording (from his car!), which is transcribed in part below:

“Upon joining CST, I thought the One Acts Festival was a great chance to write and perform in ways that were different. They are not the traditional, structured plays that we usually perform in theater. I contributed a script that first year and have written scripts and acted every year I have been involved with CST.

“This year, Gene McLendon stepped back from the One Acts and asked me if I would like to direct them. He didn’t know I was moving to Winston-Salem. I thought, ‘I can’t believe I have the chance to direct, and I won’t be here to actually do it.’

“Amid the negatives of the pandemic, a positive is our increased facility with new methods of video communication. I realized I could direct from Winston-Salem, ensuring the One Acts would continue this year.

“I had previously served as Gene’s assistant director of the One Acts while directing individual plays. My only other directorial experience was ‘The Odd Couple.’ I had no experience working remotely with a cast, but it has proved to be a challenging and exciting task, reworking my whole approach to directing.

“One of the great things about the One Acts is playing different characters in the same production. You can be on stage and be totally different five minutes later in a new play. You can be the hero in one play and the villain in the next, the straight man or the comic relief. I see the One Acts as CST’s version of ‘Saturday Night Live’ — a sketch comedy show, but with offerings that are not limited to comedy.

“One of the most exciting things for me is hearing and seeing the actors bring the characters I’ve written to life. The people on stage always bring something different to the characters than what I had in mind. The One Acts are a great opportunity and showcase for people who want to try writing a skit, a one act or even something longer. The One Acts helped me grow as a writer, as an artist and as a performer, by writing, playing and directing so many different characters and different stories, different scenes and different art forms.

“We give actors who may not get as much stage time in traditional plays a chance to shine. I love performing in structured plays, directing them and seeing them, but there is something fun and different in staging creations that local people write, direct and perform. They are not musicals that everyone has known since 1930; they are not plays that became hit movies. They are fun, different and exciting. There is risk involved because you know as a writer, as a performer, as a director, you want this to succeed. I’ve done improv, and I’ve done standup comedy, but there’s something different when the audience laughs at a joke that I’m really proud of. That is one of the greatest feelings in theater.

“You never know until you hear the audience reaction. It is an exciting feeling of accomplishment when they like something you have written or directed that they’ve never seen before. They have no idea what is coming, and they just naturally have a positive response.”

Full performance time and ticket information as well as more complete versions of these comments can be found at http://bit.ly/wayneoneacts21

Banks Peacock retired as an information technology instructor from Wayne Community College in 2014.