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OCHS irons out seven one-act plays set in a laundromat, opening March 4 at high school

What do you get when you take seven student-written one-act plays and set them in a laundromat?

PMG PHOTO: ELLEN SPITALERI - Mitchell Pace and Camille Macom rehearse a scene from 'Step by Step,' while director Annabella Mumma looks on."Wordplay 7 Spin Cycle," opening Wednesday, March 4, at Oregon City High School, will give audiences something new every 10 minutes, said stage manager Alyssa Lind, an OCHS junior. "Spin Cycle" is the result of Clyde Berry's Drama 3/4 class partnering with Willamette University and Theatre 33.

"Jennifer Skyler, an alumna of Willamette who worked as a writer in LA, returned to the area where she works as the education coordinator of Theatre 33," Berry said.

For two months, Skyler was in residence in the drama class, guiding students in the writing process from creation to revision.

After reading them aloud in class, students voted on the plays to be presented. Those who wanted to direct a play chose which one to work on, then cast the show using students in the class.

There were several caveats — playwrights could not direct or be in the plays they wrote, and directors could not consult with the playwrights to make changes to the script.

The directors "have to go with what is on the page," Berry said.

Another difference is that Berry was only minimally involved in the productions.

"I am stepping back, so the kids can step forward and struggle and learn how to do better in a safe place," Berry said. "Students will rise to high expectations and I trust them. It is very empowering and on par with their first professional internship."

Robots, dreams

Ian Carpenter wrote "Wash It All," based on a dream he had. In the play, an inventor comes up with the Wash-o-tron, a laundry robot that may help get the failing laundromat back on its feet.

Then, things go terribly wrong. Carpenter said he easily figured out the beginning and end of the play, but had to work harder to determine how to get from the start to the finish.

The one-act is directed by Casey Canepa, who uses they/them pronouns, who chose the play because it is so funny.

Canepa enjoyed directing because it gave them the opportunity to get to know actors they did not know beforehand.

Another play based on a dream is "The Unseen," written by Lillian Helzer and directed by Carpenter, who said he chose the play because it was interesting and he likes a challenge. The directing experience turned out better than he expected, he added.

Camille Macom plays the lead character who meets the ghost of a young man in the laundromat, and it turns out he has been secretly watching her. They ultimately become best friends.

"Dream Machine," by Annabella Mumma and directed by McKeon Sharp, revolves around the filming of a commercial promoting a new washing machine, said Kendall Morrow, who plays Eliza, the director of the commercial.

She "tries to make sure that everything goes great, but everything doesn't go great," she said. "I like the cast and I know them all, so I'm not afraid to show different versions of myself."

Carpenter plays Patrick, Eliza's long-suffering assistant, who, he said, is going to need therapy after being yelled at by Eliza.

More laundry

Macom pops up again as a teenager with a crush on a boy in "Step by Step," written by Molly Hoffmann and directed by Mumma.

When the teens almost connect in the laundromat, "a crazy old lady comes in at the wrong time, but it ends happily," Macom said.

"A Fair Dinkum Documentary" takes place in a post-apocalyptic America far in the future.

In the play, by Sharp and directed by Morrow, a family has taken refuge in the laundromat. Then an Australian documentary filmmaker shows up, who was unaware of the dire situation.

Morrow chose the play because it is funny, unique and political, adding that she likes that the themes are contemporary, including climate change and empowerment of women.

Two other plays in the program are "The Man From the Machine," by Christian Hoffmann and directed by Phoenix Stroup; and "The King and Cam," by Phoenix Stroup and directed by Phillip Olson.

'Forgive Me'

"Forgive Me," one play that was chosen by the class to be performed was removed due to the theme of the play — a deadly car accident. Sadly, a 16-year-old student at OCHS died in a single-vehicle crash in late January, and it was decided that the subject matter would bring back painful memories.

The play, written by Canepa and directed by Macom, is about a young man named Seb who was driving the car with his mother as a passenger. His mother died as a result of the car crash, and it turns out Seb was texting as he drove.

"He and his mother were in a constant argument and he feels guilty that his mother died and that he never got to say he's sorry," Canepa said.

They wrote the play after Canepa's stepfather was involved in a car accident, and before the accident involving the student.

Canepa and Morrow put a lot of work into the play and are sad that it won't be performed, but understand the reasoning behind the decision.

Stage managing

One key person who is not directing or acting in any of the plays is Lind, the stage manager.

She wanted to have a role where everyone relies on her, plus she wanted to project a calm and collected demeanor amid the stress of putting on plays.

Lind noted that she is the only one who knows every single aspect of all the shows.

"I see all the shows growing; no one else gets to see the pieces" improve and come together, she noted.

Lind quickly realized that she would need to create a spreadsheet for rehearsals. Even though everyone is in one classroom, students are involved in more than one play and usually three plays are rehearsing at the same time.

She also compiles a rehearsal report to send to directors, telling them all the scheduling things they need to know, along with due dates and other general information.

Audiences will enjoy "Wordplay 7 Spin Cycle," Lind said, because of the variety of the pieces.

Lind noted that students benefit from this project in many ways, adding, "They learn how to juggle a whole bunch of things at once, and if they do want to go into acting or directing, they will have had this experience."

Wash, dry, spin

What: The Oregon City High School Drama Department presents "Wordplay 7 Spin Cycle"

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, March 4-7

Where: Oregon City High School, 19761 S. Beavercreek Road

Tickets: $8 general admission

More: Visit ochspioneers.org/drama


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