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Milligan presenting 25th Annual One-Act Play Festival

Elizabethton Star

For the 25th consecutive year, the Milligan College Department of Theatre will sponsor its One-Act Play Festival. From April 23-26, students, faculty and the community are invited to take part in this long-running tradition.

Dick Major is a Professor of Theatre and the Director of Drama Productions for Milligan College. Major, who joined the faculty in 1985, commented that when he first came to Milligan, he began to consider several ideas for the theatre department. “As I started into my second full year at the college, I began to muse about possibly of having something like a one-act festival that could coincide with my teaching the Fundamentals of Directing class,” said Major.

In the spring semester of 1987, Major said he presented the concept for the festival to the department chair for his approval. With the blessing of the department head, Major started preparing his students to participate in the program. He commented that the six students in the introductory directing class showed a great deal of interest in taking part in the first one-act play festival.

Major said one of his main reasons for bringing the one-act series to Milligan was in order to give students the opportunity to learn by doing. He noted, “My whole thought process behind this was that students need to do something in order to really learn how to direct. I will be the first to tell you, and maybe the last person to tell you, I don’t believe anyone can truly teach directing in a classroom setting. It’s such a personal thing. Each person who directs has their own voice in what they’re trying to express to the audience.”

The first One-Act Play series took place in April of 1987 in the courtyard area outside Hart Hall. Major said he and the class agreed to hold the program there due to its proximity to the student dining area. They also made the decision to perform directly after most students finish eating dinner in order to increase the likelihood of drawing a large audience.

“We had two plays each night over a three-night period,” Major said. “The first night, we had about 60 people attend the performance. The next night, the attendance almost tripled. We had close to 175 people on the second evening. The third night, however, we had over 300 people show up to take part in the festival. And because it took place in the courtyard of the dormitory, we literally had people hanging out the windows to watch the students perform. It had a true festival feel to it.”

As the popularity of the program has grown, the One-Act Play Festival Series has evolved into one of the most anticipated events on the Milligan campus. It has also changed venues on more than one occasion since 1987. For several years, theatre students sponsored the plays in the Commons area near Hardin Hall. The series was later moved to Derthick Hall before finding its present home in the Gregory Center, which opened in 2008.

Over the next two decades, the Milligan College One-Act Play Festival has seen participation from thousands of future alumni. Major said he conservatively estimates more than 1,500 students have directed, acted, worked as stage hands or designed costumes for the festival. “We have had many non-theatre majors who have taken part in this, as well. They often do it because they want to take part in a play while they’re in college, but they don’t have the time to commit to a full-length play. This is about a one-month, one-night per week commitment,” Major said.

The One-Act Play Festival has traditionally been held on the final week of classes for students. Major commented that many students look forward to the event as it gives them an opportunity to relax and unwind during finals week.

During the history of the festival, most plays have been comedies, which are a favorite of Milligan students. While most performances are not original works, Major said two of this year’s plays have been written by students at the school. “Daniel Banks of Elizabethton and Corri Richardson of Kingsport have both written original plays this year. Both of them have written truly delightful, one-act comedies that will be presented in the festival. They have not only written them, but both will direct their works, as well. In addition, Daniel Banks will also play the lead role in the play he has written.”

The festival will begin with the presentation of three plays on Monday, April 23 at 6 p.m. in the Gregory Center’s McGlothlin-Street Theatre. Nine additional plays will be performed on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The event is free and the public is welcome to attend each night. The theatre department will collect donations to benefit Milligan college student Phillip Davis of Johnson City. Davis, who is also a volunteer firefighter at the West Carter County Volunteer Fire Department, was severely burned while working on a vehicle with a friend earlier this year. Major said buckets will be set up outside the doors to collect donations.

Additional donations can also be made through PayPal at www.milligan.edu/burnfund or sent to Milligan College, Phillip Davis Burn Fund, P.O. Box 750, Milligan, TN 37682.

Major said the Theatre Department is also sponsoring the 12th Annual Milligan Film Festival on Friday evening at 5:30 p.m. in the McGlothlin-Street Theatre. The festival is a free event featuring four short films by Milligan student filmmakers. “The success of the one acts inspired us to include a short film festival in the festivities,” Major commented. “This allows communications majors to showcase their filmmaking skills.”

For additional information on the one-act plays or the film festival, go to milligan.edu/arts.


MILLIGAN UNIVERSITY is a Christian liberal arts university in Northeast Tennessee whose vision is to change lives and shape culture through a commitment to servant leadership. The university offers more than 100 majors, minors, pre-professional degrees and concentrations in a variety of fields, along with graduate and adult degree completion programs.  To learn more about Milligan University, visit www.milligan.edu or call 800-262-8337.

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