They May be One Act, but They’re Five Stars: The Robinson Players’ One-Act Festival Triumphs

At 5:00 pm on Saturday, Nov. 12, the Martin Andrucki Black Box Theater went dark, a singular birthday candle was lit and a harmonized version of “Happy Birthday” materialized out of the darkness. Thus began the first performance of the Robinson Players’ One-Acts Festival.

The Robinson Players is a student-run theater group, headed by Executive Director Lucie Green ‘23. This year, their annual festival of short plays directed, designed, produced and brought to life by students ran from Nov. 11 to Nov. 13 The festival consisted of four short plays, running back-to-back, with casts of three to four actors. It provides an opportunity for students to try their hand at directing and encourages them to “step out of their comfort zones,” according to director Sophia Cattalni ‘25.
Though each play has its own director, stage manager and cast, a small crew works on all of the plays: Maggie Nespole ‘23, Britton Gorfain ‘25, Kendall Jones ‘25 and Blessing Ajayi ‘26 worked on posters, lighting, sound and other logistics for each production.

The completely student-run production opened with the short play “Naturalized,” written by Marcia Eppich-Harris. Directed by Sophie Wheeler ‘25 and stage-managed by Ananya Rao ‘25, the play takes place during a birthday party for character Alex, played by Joaquin Torres ‘25. Alex closes his eyes, blows out his candle and wishes to be a British citizen – and much to his and his family’s surprise, the wish is granted. 

His mother, Parker, played by Quinn Simmons ’24, and father, James, played by Khagolim Negi ‘25, try to understand this new development in their son whilst his sister, Taylor, played by Megan Billings ‘26, mocks his “citizenship.” Discourse and chaos ensue until another birthday wish results in Alex being taken away by law enforcement, played by John Wilkins ‘23.

The story was compelling and the comedic timing of the actors had the audience giggling nearly the entire length of the play. Though I found the writing to be very literal, leaving little to be interpreted for deeper meaning or message, the actors inhabited their characters well. The opening act was delightful.

Next to take the stage was Karen Fix Curry’s “Crazy Quilts,” directed by Cattalani and stage managed by Keira January ‘25. The piece follows a journalist, Lisa, played by Isabel Fronzaglia ‘26, as she interviews a local quilting group. Characters Carl (AJ Matos ‘26), Susan (Maggie Nespole ‘23), Judy (Lila Shamsi ‘26) and Clara (Jiayi Yang ‘25) appear at first to be an unassuming quilting group; as it’s later revealed, the group helps victims of domestic abuse kill their partners and  then sew their dead spouse’s clothes into quilts. In a twist ending, the journalist is actually being interviewed to join the group and begins her own quilt, escaping her own abusive situation.

The darkly funny play weaved smoothly between humorous exchange, eerie undertones and earnest admissions. To present a piece of such heavy subject matter is no easy feat, but Cattalini’s direction and the deftness of the actors rendered it seamless. Fronzaglia, Matos, Nespole, Shamsi and Yang all shined in their roles, giving each character a unique voice and nailing the rhythm of their dialogue. A particularly powerful moment occurred when Nespole’s character, Susan, arose from her quiet demeanor and emphatically described the turmoil of her abusive situation, ultimately clarifying the origins of the quilting group. Earnest and touching, yet equally funny and absurd, “Crazy Quilts” was a special addition to the night.

Curry’s dark comedy was followed by “After Happily Ever After?” by Rachel Feeny-Williams. Directed by Isabella Sandoz ‘26, stage-managed by Lee Kenney ‘26, and featuring Duchess, played by Julia Parham ‘25, Princess, played by Maia Seigerman ‘26 and Prince Charming, played by Ali Sheikh ‘23, the short play poked fun at the idea of the “happily ever after” pedaled in many fairy tales.

The piece begins at the end of a fairy tale, as Prince Charming and Princess wave to their admiring subjects, newly married. Prince Charming, however, is distraught at the conclusion of the waving when Princess changes out of her royal garb and proceeds to go out, as she “has a date with a woodsman.” The disenchanted prince and pragmatic Princess engage in an argument wherein Princess explains the absurdity of two strangers getting married in pursuit of their fairy tale ending, ultimately exposing the fairy tale as what she calls “PR Stunt.” 

The humorous piece was made funnier by the ending that undermined the message of the piece, as the Prince ultimately marries the “Duchess,” to whom he’s a stranger. Though the cast was small and the piece shorter than the rest of the plays, the act was full of personality and energy. The lighthearted and silly nature of the story served as a great contrast to the previous piece.

Rounding out the night was David Ives’ play “Words, Words, Words” directed by David Walker ‘24 and stage-managed by Catalina Passino ‘26. The play chronicles an experiment seeking to prove the theory that three monkeys in captivity, when given typewriters, will eventually produce Shakespeare’s Hamlet. A comment on the capitalist machine and the absurd means of production, the play proved quite comical despite the somewhat despairing message it propagated. 

The three monkeys, Kafka (Shelby Armor ‘24), Swift (Brendan Fitzgerald ‘23) and Milton (Josh Sherman ‘25), had great chemistry and dialogue pacing– a testament to Walker’s directing and the actors’ skill. The monkey-like mannerisms, including a pair of strange socks worn by Armor, elevated the performance in its hilarity. 

As each monkey feels increasingly defeated and used by the scientist conducting the experiment, unsure and lost as to how they’re supposed to produce Hamlet, the act evolves into chaos and madness. The sprinkling of lines from Shakespeare’s play alongside absurd exchanges between characters and arguments about the smoking chimp stereotype made for an immensely entertaining final act.

The One-Acts Festival was a triumph indeed. Each play had its unique personality and strengths, creating a variety of theater for the audience to experience. The Robinson Players truly brought their audience together for an evening of laughter and joy. Each play may only have been one act, but from me they each earned five stars.