Taking flight takes off

Latest iteration of drama deptartment's one-act festival gears up

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Spurned moralists preaching against the dangers of incurable venereal diseases, trolls and the personification of the American dream all come to the Reeve Theatre in the drama department's one-act festival, Taking Flight. Taking Flight is a celebration of student creativity and talent in a two-week showcase of the drama department's most talented directors, designers and actors.

"It's a kind of a launching [point], especially for the students graduating," says Valerie Campbell, drama department faculty member and artistic director of the festival. "These are all talented students who are going to be on the Calgary stages, starting theatre companies and performing on stage."

The festival, now in its third year of production, was originally concieved to allow student directors to show off work that was already produced, but not seen by a large part of campus.

"The whole idea behind the festival is that before the end of classes, the time slot was devoted to a main stage show," says Campbell. "After that final show, we would have all the pre-thesis shows from the master's directors and the senior directing projects--a lot going on in a short amount of time. The idea was to make the final main stage slot be about the final projects and we ended up with the idea of a festival."

Taking Flight has become much more than the celebration of the final productions of students in the directing classes. With the festival's continuity has come an evolution in the program. Instead of productions only from students in directing classes, the festival has now taken on independent productions from within the drama department.

"It began to open up and have more student work in there," says Campbell. "Graduate students do self-created production work and now independent studies projects are becoming part of the festival."

One of the other aims of the festival is to showcase the artistic side of the theatre. With a campus community that spends most of its time going to class and then commuting to work, the student body doesn't have a whole lot of time to sit down in a cramped little room and watch a play for two hours. With a one act that's often no longer than 45 minutes, the average student can squeeze a play in over their lunch break.

"With our noon hour shows people on campus can go, 'Oh! I can go see a show!'" explains Campbell. "There's a lot of diversity. One of the things that I love about one-act festivals is that they're short. Instead of a night at the theatre and seeing a show, you get three."

The student directors also love the experience of producing their own play. For directors like Alix Woods, a fourth-year student with the drama department, this is one of their first opportunities to direct a play with total creative control.

"I prefer directing one acts," she says. "This is the first full-length one act I've directed. They're more concise and impactful, they hit home quicker. It's more challenging to get your point across. You don't have a full play--you've only got the 50 minutes."

Her performance, The American Dream by Edward Albee, is a dark, comic tale of an ignored grandmother packing up and trying to leave her family's mundane suburban existence when a young man--who represents the American dream--walks into her life.

"I picked it because it's really relevant to today," she explains. "Edward Albee has grown as a writer, but it's still really topical for today. It's an absurdist comedy that pokes fun at society's obsession with consumerism and materialism and how that destroys family values."

Taking Flight is a unique opportunity for students of all walks to experience theatre in a more accessible setting. For an art-form that is decried as dead, Taking Flight shows that there are still many brilliant and creative individuals out there making entertaining and interesting theatre, and that the U of C's own drama department is home to a number of them.

"I would hope [the audience] would be inspired," says Campbell. "Because these are like snapshots of what the department is doing, I would hope the crowd would look at the diversity and go, 'Oh! That's what they're doing over there!' and that'd shed some light on the drama department. Hopefully it might just create another theatregoer."