One-Act: A “Staggering” Win for Bear Necessity Theatre

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Photo by Luxe Palmer

Everyone’s been there- first love, first heartbreak, first revenge. This year’s One-Act, “The Staggering Heartbreak of Jasmine Merriwether,” follows the story of, you guessed it, Jasmine Merriwether as she discovers just how painful heartbreak can be.

“Jasmine Merriwether falls madly in love, as only a teenager can do, because the boy sitting at her lab table will agree to do all the gross parts of the fetal pig dissection and she can do the computer parts,” said theatre director Josh Belk. “They have this beautiful romance for seven weeks and then he dumps her because he is not in love with her, and then she recovers- it’s a painful process.”

Jasmine deals with her tumultuous emotions with the help of two interpretive dancers, as well as interacting with a mixed-martial-arts-obsessed detention monitor, a wacky science teacher, a possible rebound love interest, and her mother, who also has problems finding love.

Jasmine (Samantha Neptune) consults with her mother (Riley Burton), who has been through a fair number of love interests herself.

The annual one-act typically takes place at the beginning of the year, with auditions before Winter Break, rehearsals through January, and the regional competition in February. “One of the biggest differences that can help out is it’s a lot shorter term. A musical is a ten week commitment, spring play is six to eight weeks, the one act is four weeks… It’s a smaller scale, it’s a smaller show; we typically pick shows that do not have elaborate sets or costumes or lighting requirements, so it’s an easy way to get into a production that’s not as high-stakes,” said Belk.

The One-Act competition takes place across the Pikes Peak region, though Palmer Ridge has been the home of the competition for the vast majority of the competitions, including this year. “One of the reasons that we host more often is that we have really great facilities… We make sure that our lighting is ready with sort of a generic lighting set-up that is adaptable and relatively simple to run because shows don’t bring pre-programmed shows like we do in a full-scale production,” said Belk. “We also have to be ready to play host, to make sure that the schools who come have things that they need. It can be difficult to bring big set pieces, so if there are set pieces that we can accommodate like chairs or tables or desks or rehearsal blocks or something like that, we offer that so that they don’t have to transport it.”

The intermediate and advanced theatre classes, along with the cast and crew of the One-Act, were responsible for setting up and tearing down the competition, including spaces for incoming theatre troups.

Hosting the competition includes many responsibilities, including setting up areas for judges, directors, and students, providing food for directors and judges, and cleaning up after the event. PR’s Intermediate and Advanced theatre classes learn about running a theatre festival within their curriculum, and the One-Act competition is a perfect opportunity to practice their skills. The classes planned the menu and helped with the food for the event, as well as helping out during the day. “Really, it’s just about, what can we do to make everybody’s competition experience positive and educational? That’s the goal,” said Belk. “I was… pleased with the students who were in my classes who were responsible for running the competition because really, it’s a lot of waiting until somebody needs something. It can be very boring, but we got a lot of compliments and feedback about the students and their readiness to help, their friendliness- not just their readiness to help but their ability to help- they were able to solve different problems that schools had.”

Palmer Ridge has participated in the One-Act competition every year since its opening, with the exception of 2021, due to Covid complications. “We do have a tradition… we generally either place in the top three or our performers win individual awards such as outstanding actor or outstanding supporting actress or something like that,” said Belk. The theatre company has also participated in the Colorado Thespian Conference and the Bobby G. Awards, which is “kind of like the Tony awards for Colorado high school musical theatre.” This year, Palmer Ridge took second place overall for their performance of “The Staggering Heartbreak,” out of the seven total schools who participated.

“I had a really great day. It was super fun to be with a lot of kids- not just my kids- but a lot of kids interested in theater who came to enjoy the day and see a bunch of different kinds of theater,” said Belk. “One of the things that we focused on this time because of the Covid absences and snow days and just the difficulty in getting the productions put together less of an emphasis on hard-core competitiveness and more of a celebration of the fact that we get to perform in front of people… The kids that came really sort of grabbed onto this idea that whatever came up, we’re going to celebrate that they put up something.”

Seven schools from across the region competed in the competition. The Black Box and Scene Shop were opened up for schools to practice and store their props and set pieces.

A preview performance of “The Staggering Heartbreak” was scheduled for Thursday, February 3rd, but as that school day was cancelled due to snow, the performance was rescheduled for February 10th. Students, friends, and family were invited to view the show in the Palmer Ridge auditorium, and the performance was met with roaring success. Every actor involved put their all in the performance and the lead, Samantha Neptune (12) as Jasmine Merriwether herself, was astounding. The comedy hit every punch line perfectly and each character was given time to develop their unique and individual personalities.

Jasmine had two interpretive dancers (played by Owen Milks (12) and Georgia Lawrence (10)) to act out her inner monologue, including when she was raving about just how amazing her new crush Brendan (played by Brennen Ledlow (12)) is.
Interpretive dancers act out Jasmine’s existential boredom whilst in detention with Drake (pictured far left, played by Spencer Russum (12)). Why was she in detention? She had a minor meltdown during Biology after her breakup with Brendan.

“[Jasmine Merriwether] needs to learn a lot of hard lessons. She deals with her first heart break like a lot of high school students deal with. She likes to dream big… Because she learns important lessons such as not to go searching for the most perfect guy because no is perfect, we all have our flaws,” said Neptune. Neptune was previously in this year’s musical, “Once Upon a Mattress,” where she played the court jester. “I wasn’t originally going to audition because I wanted to do soccer again, but after the Musical ended I realized that I couldn’t be done with theatre because I love it too much. So I changed my plans and auditioned. I also really liked the story and how funny it was,” said Neptune.

Congratulations to everyone involved in the One-Act!