East’s “One Acts” bring on the fun and the laughs

Students share what makes them fun, challenging and memorable!


The seniors at Palm Tree Pines Retirement Home get ready for their daily bingo night in the act ¨Showdown at Palm Tree Pines.¨ Photo by Corymar Macias.

St. Charles East buzzed with excitement as this year’s fall 2022 student directed “One Acts” took place. Being a student favorite and directed by East’s very own seniors, “One Acts” combine different aspects of theater into an entertaining, student-led production, sure to bring smiles to the audience.

The “One Acts” was brought to the Black Box theater stage this year from November 9-11, with each act lasting 30 minutes. Starting over 30 years ago, the “Acts” began with the idea of giving students more leadership opportunities in theater. “With students themselves being able to direct, it was something else to do outside of acting. Some students who plan on going into directing as a profession can get the experience early on with the One Acts,” stated Ava Johnson, who, along with Erik Snead, directed “The One Act Play Disaster.”

“I’ve been in One Acts all four years of high school,” said Olivia Bartolomei, who co-directed “13 Ways to Screw Up Your College Interview” with Joey Wilbur. “What made me want to direct One Acts specifically was my One Acts freshman year directors, they’re like the biggest role models…it was definitely because of them, because I had such a fun time during that show.”

Ellen Jahoda, Chulo Onwuta and Jeff Bialeschki behind the scenes rehearsing their lines for “13 Ways to Screw Up Your College Interview”. Photo courtesy of St. Charles East High School.

Being able to pick their act, seniors are given the opportunity to direct it, choose the cast and see their work on stage.   “One of my favorite aspects of theater overall is being able to work really hard on something and then be able to sit in the audience and just see it completely acted out and executed,” said Elizabeth Nowak, the director of “Showdown at Palm Tree Pines.”

“It’s amazing about how all these little details, all these little notes that I gave to these individual actors together I mean, this beautiful production and the fact that I got to witness the hard work that I put in to direct it is absolutely magical.”

Though being able to see your work on stage is magical, directing is not as easy as it seems. “Directing is so stressful,” laughed Johnson.

“With the director, you’d be a lot more in the inseam stuff rather than just like ‘Ok I’m going to get on stage, read my lines and put on a performance,’ with directing you aren’t just managing people, you are picking out the costumes, working on the props, managing the lighting, sound, it’s crazy.”

With different factors to bring the show together, it takes a team to get it all done. Due to “One Acts” being a smaller production, there’s no set, make-up or lighting crew. The directors, along with their cast, decide all that themselves. “I handled the ‘cloak and dagger’ (costumes, hair, make-up, props) side of things while my co-director did tech (lights, sound, and the set),” added Johnson. “Actors in our cast who wanted to help with [anything] helped where they were able to, so it was definitely a team effort.”

As acts are performed, Ryan York and Gabi DalSanto make sure the mood is set. Photo courtesy of St. Charles East High School.

Being the first “One Acts” back to “normal” after the 2020 pandemic with only 13 rehearsals and stressful planning, the casts didn’t forget the importance of being in this special production. Given the opportunity to learn and grow as a performer has its benefits, like being in a team that stays as strong as a family.

“The One Acts are student-directed, which means your peers are the people in charge. I think having that sort of freedom makes rehearsals fun and exciting,” said Meredith Musial, a junior at East who was cast in the act “13 Ways to Screw Up Your College Interview.”

Matthew Brunson (left) and Meredith Musial (right) during their frightful college interview in the act “13 Ways to Screw Up Your College Interview.” Photo courtesy of St. Charles East High School.

Alongside Musial was East junior Matthew Brunson, who added, “We are surrounded by all our friends in theater and get to be directed by students, which is loads of fun to be directed by your friends.”

“If you want to get into acting, you’re still acting [in One Acts], but you’re also making all of these friends along the way and it’s such a positive and encouraging environment that’s a good place to start…by the end of it, we all still talk, we all still hangout, we are pretty much a family at this point so it’s a lot of fun,” stated Bartolomei, who admitted that she still talks to her “One Acts” crew from her freshman year on a daily basis.

For some students, “One Acts” play a part in their first experience in acting, like freshman Skylar Powell, who had a great time being a part of the act “Showdown at Palm Tree Pines.”

“It’s nerve-wracking like the first time you do it, but it’s fun and relieving,” she explained.

When asked if she did any acting in middle school, she replied, “No, technically this was my first…it definitely pushed me to do more.”

From rehearsals to being onstage, the different roles and personas come to life, bringing out sides of performers the audience has never seen before. As the acts end, the casts reminisced about the best parts of their performances and the impact it had on them, such as East junior Parker Moran, who thanked the audience for their amazing reactions to her work in the act, “The One Act Play Disaster.”

Playing as an Italian mafia boss, Parker Moran (right) converses plans with Fiona Florizoone (left) in “The One Act Play Disaster.” Photo courtesy of St. Charles East High School.

“ …A lot of times in rehearsals, you’re doing the same thing over and over again, so it can be really funny, but because you’ve done it so many times, it’s not funny anymore,” stated Moran. “But then when the audience gets it, it breathes new air into the scene and you’re like ‘oh yeah this is funny,’…it helps you bring more energy into that so I really enjoy having the audience there to help bring out the comedy of the show.”

Ore Onwuta, a senior at East who performed in the act, “13 Ways to Screw Up Your College Interview,” recalled his role as Kimberly (pronounced Kim-bar-eL), the blonde actress who used her interview as a part of a documentary she was in. “My character was different from myself in every way, most notably because I’m not a woman. However, I found that the more I threw myself into my role, the more I got out of it.”

Onwuta stated, “ It started off with me just wearing a wig, but the more I got in the head of my character, we started adding jewelry, clip-on earrings, a fur coat, and even nails to add to the character.”

Onwuta also played a bouncer who threw, dragged and even kicked characters off of the stage, alongside his brother Chulo. “Chulo and I tried to have fun with it and really throw characters around so that we could sell the idea that we were kicking the characters out of the building.”

Ore and Chulo Onwuta, brothers in real life, played bodyguards on stage in “13 Ways to Screw Up Your College Interview.” Photo courtesy of St. Charles East High School.

Onwuta described his favorite moment with this character being with Sam Uchill in which he and his brother, “faked punching and stomped him out to sell it to the audience.”

Onwuta said, “You don’t have to be in theater to do One Acts,”as he “had never acted before and loved it.” Onwuta called out to all students at East and encouraged them to join “One Acts,” as they are “a chance to do something fun with your high school experience no matter who you are, and nobody should miss it.”