The bar is open and the lights are dim. The Wave transforms into a black box theatre for two nights a year to showcase Theatre Western’s finest student actors, directors and playwrights. Purple Shorts's One Act Festival features six short plays that are entirely student created. The cast and crew have only one month to put together each show, and only 20 to 30 minutes to convey their story to the audience.
The festival begins with "Sibling, Friends We Don’t Choose" directed by Thomas Sayers and written by Tori Wiley. The show features a pair of fighting siblings played by Drew Pertson and Calvin Hyde. The performance was simple and cute, reminding the audience that even though siblings fight, they always have each other’s backs.
Purple Shorts veteran Nik Buchowski, a fourth-year popular music major, wrote and directed the second one act of the night, "I Found My Friends, They’re in My Head." This is Buchowski’s fourth year and seventh show in the festival. Based around references to Nirvana’s "Lithium", this one-act follows Kurtis (played by Arman Hakimattar) and his friends Polly (played by Roisin Delaney) and Penny (played by Amelia Eqbal) as they watch moments of his life, involving his girlfriend Moria (played by Drew Peterson), play out before them.
The show features mirrored scenes of actors who are speaking about the same event, but are not interacting with each other. Confused? That was the goal according to Buchowski.
“I actually would just prefer that if at the end [the audience] are just like ‘That was great! I don’t really understand what I just saw,’” he explains.
His focus instead is to elicit an emotional response from the audience. This production features strong acting from all cast members involved as they make the audience uneasy with anticipation and controlled chaos.
Buchowski’s inspiration came from watching documentaries about the 27 Club, and evolved as he did more researched on Kurt Cobain. The show he wrote and directed in last year’s festival, "Mad Man", is also heavily focused on music, but mainly on censorship. As music student and songwriter, Buchowski says music is often his inspiration.
“It goes back to that saying ‘write what you know’ right? I could write about other things but it’s just what I want to research is stuff that I’m into, which is music,” Buchowski says.
The first night of the festival ends with "Taxi", written and directed by Maya Gantar. This comedic show follows a disgruntled cab driver (played by Ray Reid) as he encounters a host of bold characters throughout the night. Each character's story connects at the end of the show in situational humour and hair pulling as the they realize they know one another.
Kaitlyn Charnetski plays the obnoxiously loud Alexandra, whose tinder date goes poorly. She sobs wildly in the back of the cab and stares out the window dramatically to a sad song. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Reid does not speak until the very end, but his mimed actions and eye rolls are as hilarious as they are subtle.
Reid, a second-year English student, has been a part of multiple Theatre Western productions in the past, from last year’s Purple Shorts festival to leading the fall play "Our Town". He explains that the small cast of one-act plays allows him to gain a fuller understanding of the story being told.
He explains, “I think it’s a … lot more reliant on making sure everyone in your cast is working well together, and so in that way you kind of get a fuller idea of it.”
The audience is silent. The only sound filling the room is the fragile hum of a young Polish girl, gradually joined by a German boy seeking shelter in her home. This poignant moment comes from one of the three shorts performed on Valentine’s evening at The Wave.
The first play of the night, "Forks and Knives", tells the story of a college boy coming out to his parents about his sexuality. Trisha Kershaw, the director of the play and a second-year international relations students, made sure to present the topic in a realistic way while adding a pinch of comedy.
“It is very important for me to not sugar-coat it,” says Kershaw.
Though she had experience with theatre in high school, participating in Purple Shorts is Kershaw’s first time directing an independent production.
“Purple Shorts is such a great way for new directors like me to come out and try something new,” Kershaw says.
Taking the audience back in history from modern time, "Evening at a Wartime Farmhouse" takes place toward the end of German occupation of Poland. The play showcases the presence of humanity in turbulent times and the power of empathy and its ability to transcend languages and nationalities.
Written by Erik Bajzert, a fourth-year film studies and school for the advanced studies of the arts and humanities student with Polish roots.
"The show is an attempt to both translate my own feelings about my family's history while also paying respect to what my relatives went through during the war,” says Bajzert.
The idea for the play had lingered in Bajzert’s mind for two years, and it put him through a tough writing process. After several attempts at lengthy, loaded dialogues, Bajzert eventually realized that the greatest impact lay in something else entirely — the quiet. Expression, emotion and gestures wove the story, compelling the audience into the same profound silence felt onstage.
Silence breaks into laughter as the last play of the night, "The Plate Collector", comes on — a zany satire that has nothing to do with its title. Amid the absurd dialogue, outrageous characters and their unkempt attire, the play reflects on the politics and pop culture of our modern world. An election between two hip-hop artists with no political expertise? Probably reminds some of #Kanye2020.
A lot of pressure was on the Purple Shorts directors to capture the audience within a short amount of time. Nonetheless, it was an extremely rewarding experience to witness their products of hard work come into being and to share them with the audience.