Student perspective: Being a One Act performer

From left to right: North theatre director Ron Parker, actress Rachel Sina, and stage managers Kamy Veith and Maddy Cuff in an early rehearsal of the Alice in Wonderland One Act

Photo by Maddy Schilling

From left to right: North theatre director Ron Parker, actress Rachel Sina, and stage managers Kamy Veith and Maddy Cuff in an early rehearsal of the Alice in Wonderland One Act

Rachel Sina, Contributor

“Go!” the stage manager shouts queuing a flood of set pieces to surge onto the stage in a choreographed frenzy. For the next forty minutes or less, the Appleton North One Act cast and crew becomes one in purpose: to immerse ourselves and our audience in Wonderland. As the timer ticks, we are an instrument of concentration, rendering Lewis Carroll’s beloved story.

I play Alice Liddell in North’s One Act production of Alice in Wonderland this year. Although Alice One Act isn’t the first production I’ve been a part of with the North Theatre Program, it is certainly among the ones I’ve grown the most fond of because of its whimsical and wonderfully abstract nature. Not to be confused with either one of Disney’s Alice in Wonderland’s, the North theatre production is an original adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s novel, condensed into a single act and performed as a part of the Wisconsin High School Forensic Association’s One Act competition.

Working in the Alice cast is an indescribable experience, but I’ll try my best to explain nonetheless. On one hand, there are exceptional bonds formed between fellow cast and crewmembers that are comparable to being part of a family; we are driven not only by the love of the theatre, but also by a shared desire to uphold the reputation of our theatre program’s ancestors. One Act excellence is a tradition at North, with our Theatre Program obtaining the coveted Critic’s Choice award at the Wisconsin High School Theatre Festival for the past sixteen consecutive years, so each member of the cast and crew is eager to continue to be the best we can and to tell of Alice’s adventures with honesty and heart.

On the other hand, One Act is an experience not for the weak-hearted.

For one, there is the underlying stress of each performance, with set up and take down included, having to be under forty minutes in order to meet the guidelines of the competition. Then, there are the grueling eight to twelve hour rehearsals wherein numerous changes are constantly made; with surpassing the trials of district and sectional competitions, the intensity of rehearsals as the show travels to state become more heightened than ever.

Frankly, it gets pretty demanding. From my personal perspective as an actor, making sure you’re seen, heard, and understood are all crucial elements of the production. For everyone involved, it is paramount to be in, ahead, and above the moment all at once. Practice makes perfect, and staying at school until around ten at night as well as mentally reviewing scenes individually is necessary to achieve this perfection.

After all, receiving Critic’s Choice is completely dependent on how three esteemed theatre professionals interpret the play. Projecting a single sentence or remembering a simple gesture can be the difference between the judges’ full understanding of the show and their complete dismissal of a vital part of the story. Alice, as abstract as we have made it to be, can only be done right with utmost precision and with maintaining the efficiency of our carefully crafted, well-oiled machine. This system is what defines us as One Act performers, as participants in such a commanding production.

Walking off stage as the final seconds of our production elapse, the passage of time seems surreal because of our collective enthrallment in the remarkable happenings onstage. Afterwards, we await our results in a silent storm of exhaustion and nervous energy. Stop or advance, pass or fail, win or lose, it would be a lie to say that the judge’s’ jurisdiction won’t mean the world to us, because it will.

Still, whether or not we put on a show that reflects our blood, sweat and tears and that inspires other theatre programs to do the same is what will last. That, for me, is our entire purpose.

For more information regarding upcoming shows, visit