SOAPS: The other kind of soap
“Short and easy one act plays directed by the students,” senior director Chloe McPhillips said when describing what SOAPS were. Even though they are small productions, they have become a strong tradition in the theater department.
Performed since 2009, student one-act plays, or SOAPS, are a much- anticipated custom. Although it remains fairly open as to who can be a part of these productions, there is one major rule: only juniors and seniors are allowed to direct.
“Freshmen and sophomores just don’t have enough experience in our program yet. There are even some seniors who struggle,” director and drama teacher Cathy Swain-Abrams said.
Once the seniors and juniors have signed up to direct, their jobs have barely begun - the next step is to choose a play.
“The first step is just to know what kind of play you want. After that, it is just a matter of exploring countless different websites, and finding one that is just right,” McPhillips said.
Even though this decision process may not be very arduous for the student directors, the same cannot be said about the auditions.
“The auditions are pretty nerve- wracking. There were 17 of us [15 student directors, Director Swain- Abrams and Assistant director Meridith Braniger] watching the auditionees like hawks,” McPhillips said.
Despite the stress and pressure of SOAP auditions, many students are drawn to them for various reasons.
“I loved acting as Edgar Allan Poe two years ago. I missed the opportunity to try out for the spring musical last year so I wanted to get into it as much as I could this year,” senior actor Jake Metzger said.
If chosen after auditioning, the actors then start to work with their fellow cast members and director. With actors coming in with different levels of experience, a diverse atmosphere is created that allows all of the people to grow in different ways.
“I hope to gain a deeper respect for the art of acting and directing as well as develop relationships I wouldn’t have had without meeting the diverse group of people who take part in SOAPs,” Metzger said.
The performance dates are Jan. 27 - 29 and for the first two nights only half of the plays will be performed, but on the last night, all of the performances will be shown. With these dates fast- approaching, the crews will be using every minute that they have to get everything done in time, but they won’t have to do it alone because Swain- Abrams is always around to be a helping hand.
Though the weight of crafting a performance is hefty, the crews aren’t without the help of Swain-Abrams. “I basically become the man behind the curtain, the behind the scenes. I’m always coordinating things with them,but at this point I’ve already taught them how to do it,” Swain-Abrams said.
Even though Swain-Abrams is available to help when needed, the directors are in charge of making sure that all aspects of their shows are taken care of. This includes everything from set and lighting to costumes and makeup, although some aspects are easier to handle than others.
“We have free reign to use the costume closet, and just like other shows, actors may be required to pay a small costume fee for some rentals,” McPhillips said. “For some of the shows, it’s very possible for actors to just wear some pieces from home.”
Having spent hours upon hours to prepare for about 30 minutes of stage time, SOAPs differ from other productions in length but are just as authentic as the rest.
“These plays must meet the high standards of the program [at this school],” Swain-Abrams said. “This isn’t just a chance for a group of seniors to put on a skit. It is still real theater.”