Over the course of this weekend, the Barnstormers, the oldest and largest student-run theatre-group on campus, presented the Freshman One Acts, a series of short plays that showcase a group of freshmen and their acting abilities. This year’s program featured five shows, including Lost Satellites, The Secret of Jarlsberg, One Tennis Shoe, Insight and The Role of Della.
As the performance coincided with family weekend, I found Arellano Theatre packed with parents, all busily making conversation to catch up on a month’s worth of lost time with their sons and daughters, who animatedly explained the in’s and out’s of their new lives at Hopkins. Finally the lights dimmed, whispers quickly reduced to silence and the program commenced.
Before the first play, Maya Singh Sharkey, the student producer of the show, walked out into the open stage to briefly introduce herself and the freshman actors. She stepped off, and we saw the blurred silhouettes of students running around to set up the props. Finally the lights turned back on, and act one began.
Eugenie Carabatsos’ Lost Satellites starred Aparajita Kashyap and Gabriel Feuerstein-Mendik, who portrayed a quarrelling brother and sister stuck in their car as their human GPS, played fittingly by Arielle Summitt, directed them to their destination. In what seems like the classic argument between a workaholic sister and a jobless brother interrupted by the occasional command to “turn left,” the GPS eventually loses its satellite connection, and the story unfolds into a more intimate dialogue discussing deeper values of life. At the end, the audience is presented with a heartfelt plot twist, which elicited a unanimous “Awwwww.” While I personally could not relate to the endearing resolution between the siblings, I was definitely reminded of what it means to be able to go back to a family member in the hardest of times, even amidst lost satellites.
In Arthur M. Jolly’s The Secret of Jarlsberg, Ria Gualano, playing Jennifer, and Tommy Wolek, playing Reynold, are an unhappy couple whose feud escalates over fondue. While Reynold irresponsibly uses Jennifer’s hard earned money to purchase his special ingredient, Norwegian Jarlsberg cheese, the fondue evolves into something much more special than a melted cheese dish.
Just when I thought the bickering was over, I realized that it had only just begun. In Shel Silverstein’s One Tennis Shoe, Sylvia and Harvey, played by Sophia Lipkin and Zach Galvarro, depict another everyday couple with an unreasonably striking problem. While the couple look at each other across the coffee table, they begin to realize that they aren’t seeing eye to eye, with Harvey reluctantly expressing his concern for Sylvia, who he believes is giving into odd propensities, becoming what he calls a “bag lady.” In a series of ridiculous justifications for her tendency to hoard weird objects, it is only a matter of a few outbreaks until Sylvia comes to her senses — or does she? The comedic suspense was, nevertheless, a wonderful touch to a relatable performance for all the married couples in the audience.
And as if we couldn’t get enough of relationships, David S. Raine’s Insight provided a different take on relationships: this time, between an overprotective sister, Janice, played by Moufi Adedoyin, and her sister Becky, played by Abbey Pinkerton. Halfway through the performance, we are exposed to a surprising fact about Becky’s ability to see, which for lack of a less corny description, provides “insight” into a weighty internal conflict. The act, however, ends with Janice and Becky sitting beside each other on the floor as two sisters with an even stronger bond.
The program ended on a completely different note with John Wooten’s The Role of Della, a show about a casting audition. Louis DiBernardo, who plays the director, basks in an air of arrogant cynicism as he orders Elizabeth, a passionate, aspiring actress played by Cherease Lamm, in a condescending audition. By the end of the play, another man walks out, and a surprising secret unfolds the true meaning of the show.
By the end of the night, I found myself amazed by such young talent, and I could see some proud parents smiling and clapping as the freshman actors and actresses walked out for their last bow. In the frenzy of parents congratulating students for their work, I spoke to Singh Sharkey, the producer, who offered a few ending words on what she believed the Freshman One Acts meant to the performers.
“[The Freshman One Acts] is a good way to introduce [the freshmen] to theatre, and it’s almost a mentoring program in a way because the directors are kind of their parents, so any questions they have about choosing their major and joining groups on campus are built from this family,” she said.
She ended by acknowledging that the relationships formed within the theatre group “really do last,” a statement that holds for many other organizations within the Hopkins community.
As friends and family huddled around the performers, I also managed to briefly interview Aparajita Kashyap, who starred in the opening act Lost Satellites. After asking her to provide a few words on what she has taken away from being a part of the Barnstormers, she reaffirmed what I had already heard.
“It’s really great; everyone is super supportive, and there’s a real emphasis on building a family and becoming a part of the theatre community in Hopkins,” she said.