Mitchell one-act play deals with family decisionsMitchell theater students are out to send a message in this year’s one-act play performance. This year’s one-act cast is performing “Behold an Empty Room,” a script from the 1960s that tells the story of putting a parent in a nursing home, in this year’s state contest.
By: Jennifer Jungwirth, The Daily Republic
Mitchell theater students are out to send a message in this year’s one-act play performance.
This year’s one-act cast is performing “Behold an Empty Room,” a script from the 1960s that tells the story of putting a parent in a nursing home, in this year’s state contest.
Mitchell students will perform in the South Dakota One Act Festival in Brandon Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 3-5. The group’s first performance is at 1:15 p.m. Thursday. However, a public show will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the high school auditorium.
Director Melissa Vatter-Miller said she tries to send a social message with each performance. In “Behold an Empty Room,” the young actors have to tell their mother they can’t take care of her and she must leave her lifelong home to live in a nursing home.
The script is very relatable, senior Jim Dunn said. Dunn was cast as one of the children.
“It’s also something students don’t think of. We don’t think about where our parents will go when they are older,” Dunn said. “It’s interesting to watch and go, ‘What is going to happen?’ ”
“Everybody is so self-absorbed (in the show),” Vatter-Miller said. “We had this discussion about how times change, but human behavior does not.
“When we’re young we don’t think about what is going to happen to us when we’re older,” she said. “The kids have had this discussion about friends or family they know in nursing homes that are very healthy, very alert, but no one wants to take care of them. No one wants to open that door.”
The play looks at different lifestyles. The children are young and old, one is a “ladies’ man,” another suffers from a disability.
“It’s only a 22-minute performance, but it’s very pointed. It makes you stop and think about growing older,” Vatter-Miller said.
In past years, she has used a larger cast. This year, only seven were cast in the one act. This show flows better with a smaller cast, too, Vatter-Miller said.
“Seeing the relationships and how they work together and how they bond helps,” she said.
“What they have come to realize is that it draws them closer together,” Vatter-Miller said. “They are able to better investigate characters.”
Dunn agreed and said it’s easier to interact with the cast and learn lines when there are fewer people on the stage.
Mitchell will compete in the AA division with larger schools like those in Sioux Falls. Competing against larger theater programs pushes Vatter-Miller and her students, the director said.
The judges, who are theater professionals and college professors within the state, look for clarity, if a social message is delivered, developed characters and a high-quality script, among other things.
Although the show is not a direct competition, students are critiqued and can receive a good, excellent or superior rating.
“It’s about a social message,” Vatter-Miller said. “It’s not about whether you score excellent or superior, but did you send a message?”