The short on ‘Shorts ‘23’

Student-directed “Shorts ‘23” prepares to take the stage


Kaelyn Jones

In ancient Greek plays, characters’ identities were often displayed through masks. In this shortened version of Homer’s “The Odyssey,” dramatized by Gregory A. Falls and Kurt Beattie, and directed by Jesse Kohler, actors portrayed gods don unique masks. The mask pictured here portrays Hermes.

After months of preparation, the annual theater production “Shorts 23” is just around the corner. The production gives students the opportunity to direct and perform in one-act plays, or “shorts.” Each short is roughly 45 minutes to an hour long. This year, one of the featured plays is “The Odyssey.” 

Adapted to fit a shorter production, “The Odyssey” written by Homer and dramatized by Gregory A. Falls and Kurt Beattie is an ancient Greek tale about Odysseus, a man who sails across the ocean to return to his homeland and wife after the Trojan war. During his journey, he faces various obstacles including mythical beasts and gods. The short is directed by Jesse Kohler, senior.

“[Directing is] a lot more than I expected to be honest,” Kohler said. “Every single light that gets turned on, I have to okay it and say it has to happen. Every sound cue that happens, I have to give them what sound cue it is. Pretty much everything that happens in a play is at least approved by the director.”

Alongside managing the technical aspect of the production, Kohler makes decisions about the acting and choreography.

“For me, I think [the most challenging part] has to be the physical movements, like having actors move across the stage and knowing where they should be and where they shouldn’t, because it’s such a dramatic play,” Kohler said. “It’s ancient Greece, which is known for being a lot, especially when they’re fighting Cyclops and Hermes, and all these crazy things are happening, like lightning bolts. Trying to physically show that onstage has been really difficult, but it’s also been really fun.”

Students from various performing arts classes work on different aspects of the production alongside teachers and actors, who volunteer. Putting on each short takes effort from all areas of the theater department.

Trusting your actors is something you need to do.

— Jesse Kohler

“The Technical Theater II class has created a bunch of masks for me, like there’s a cyclops mask and all the gods,” Kohler said. “The [Costuming for the Stage] class along with Annie [Kaiser] have created all the costumes and everything. The set is also all created by the Technical Theater II class.”

Additionally, the actors involved in “Shorts” have worked with Kohler and the rest of the production team to make the show a reality.

“I casted people specifically [who I] thought would work for the role and would like to be in the play,” Kohler said. “Trusting your actors is something you need to do. It’s kind of hard to, especially when they’re high schoolers who are younger, and you’re like, ‘Should I?’ but sometimes you kind of have to. And there’s been some actors who’ve really impressed me.”

While Kohler didn’t write the original script, he did make some changes to best suit his vision of the short. 

“There were a couple line changes that I [made to lines I] didn’t really like, to be honest,” Kohler said. “Especially the last line, because I think it’s a play originally meant for children. And so the ending was like, ‘this is the end of the Odyssey!’ And they hold hands and bow. After four people just got murdered. So I was like, ‘I don’t really know about that.’”

To see this rendition of “The Odyssey,” alongside “All Rise,” an original by Evan McCreary, senior, see “Shorts ‘23” at 7 p.m. on May 18, 19, and 20. Tickets are available for $5 in the Performing Arts Center Box Office or online.