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Festival will feature plays written by teens

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Many students often struggle with school, wondering what the real-life application will be.

For four high school students, this Friday night will be that real-life application.

The Empress Theatre is holding its first One-Act Festival with the works by students.

"I've been going to the Utah Theatre Association Conference for a number of years," says Nolan Mitchell, artistic director of the Empress Theatre. "Part of their conference they have a reading of some one-act plays, and I've always wanted to take that to the next level — to produce them and give students a chance to get their work done."

Working with the Utah Theatre Association, the Empress collected scripts and then it was a matter of "picking the four that would work well in our little, intimate, unique theater."

The entries come from around the valley and works include:

"The Casualties," by Megan Chase from Riverton High School.

Chase answered her phone reluctantly just before the start of class — "I'm fine but I'm about to start class" — unsure of why the Deseret News was showing up on her cell phone.

Before the teacher began, Chase talked about the plot of her one-act. "It sounds terribly depressing. My greatest fear is being stuck in an elevator," which happened to Chase a year ago, luckily only for an hour. "It's about a guy who ends up killing a kid in a hit and run; 30 years later, he tries to find the family."

That's when he gets stuck in an elevator and makes an interesting connection with his fellow passenger.

Chase, who submitted her work as part of an assignment, is excited to see it performed. "Definitely, yeah, especially when the play is so personal to me."

• "If the Shoe Fits," by Chelsy King of Riverton High School.

One of three comedies chosen, King's work is a fairy tale about finding a lost princess and making sure everyone gets what he or she deserves.

• "Unforgettable," by Eva Terra Nova from Olympus High School.

"I've been experimenting with writing since I was 12," said Nova on her lunch break. "Then I did this as an assignment for my drama class. It's about a teenage girl and her great aunt who has Alzheimer's."

Nova quickly adds, "But it's a comedy, it's a comedy."

Having lost her own Auntie Alice to Alzheimer's, Nova says "almost every line the character said is something my own Auntie Alice said."

Nova would love to keep writing and is "very excited and I'm nervous, too, I'm not gonna lie" about seeing her personal play on stage.

• "Miscommunication," by Gabriel Spencer from Hillcrest High School.

This humorous one-act is about a janitor, a student and a tourist who seem to have a hard time communicating.

In choosing the scripts, Mitchell has "been impressed with the works for a number of years. There's just a lot of depth in these one-act plays, a lot of depth."

The Empress hired a creative team for each piece and, for the most part, the playwrights have not been involved.

Now it's time to be true to your school. The Empress is holding a competition to see which high school shows the most support for its playwrights and has the best attendance. The winning school will receive a donation to its theater department.

The night will be capped off with the Empress Theatre's improv troupe, In Progress, performing.

Mitchell says, "It's going to be a very fun night of entertainment."

If you go

What: Inaugural One-Act Festival

Where: The Empress Theatre, 9104 W. 2700 South, Magna

When: Today through April 26, every day but Sunday, 7 p.m.

How much: $7-$8

Phone: 347-7373

Web: www.empresstheatre.com

E-mail: ehansen@desnews.com