MILLBURN NJ - For almost a decade, Millburn Middle School has showcased the writing talents of its students with the annual Night of One Acts.
Eighth-grade students are allowed to participate in the annual event, which starts with the students swapping English teachers in the district, in order to participate in a week-long workshop.
Under Mark Oppel, students learn how to write one-act plays in groups of two to four. Throughout the week, the workshop covers the deep techniques of playwriting craft and official formatting. After the playwriting workshop is over, students spend the next six weeks hunkered down to complete their writing.
Upon evaluating all the plays, Oppel then selects five to seven of the best plays and the one worst play to be performed towards the end of the school year by teachers.
When asked about how he chooses such few plays out of the many he has to read, Oppel said one of the most important things he stresses in his workshop is “creating characters through their language.”
Students whose plays have been chosen then meet with each other and Oppel during lunch for two to three weeks to revise and prepare for the performance.
Mr. Oppel noted that this part of the process is “creative and informal,” not stressful or confining, as would be expected from an academic project. That reason is why Oppel said he teaches one-act plays in the first place. They provide a fun medium for students to apply their creativity without the constraints of the essay writing they had previously been focusing on.
In explaining this somewhat unconventional decision to use Millburn Middle School Teachers as actors, Oppel said that it creates “great energy and camaraderie among students and teachers.”
Amy Ipp, the Millburn Middle School librarian was one of the performing actresses at this year's play night. She also reinforced that sentiment, when she said: “It’s really just so much fun for the kids and the faculty.”
Having teachers take the time from their busy schedules to help bring student work to life plainly meant a great deal to the students who had written the plays, and the casting provided an extra bit of fun for those in attendance, as they watched their teachers read through and perform the plays on stage.
Two of those playwrights spoke with TAPinto after the evening was done. Esha Bahal and Sara Solomon, the authors behind the play "Build A Baby," which was a dark futuristic play gave some insight on how they went about executing their ambitious sets and lines with limited resources.
Bahal firmly believed her group’s vision was carried out. She said, “the teachers were able to perform the play to their best of their ability.”
Solomon added, “we wrote it [the play] so that it could be performed anywhere.”
The Night of One Acts was just one of the events at the Middle School that evening and was proceeded earlier in the afternoon by the Empty Bowls fundraiser.