Where do Hollywood’s bright new faces come from? They come from all over: Jamaica, Illinois, Texas—some are even LA natives. Aspiring actors head to Hollywood for opportunity and training, and sometimes those two necessities combine in acting school showcase productions.
Acting teachers teach, of course, but since becoming a working actor is so dependent on connections and being seen, teachers also support their students in other ways. They make introductions, give advice, share war stories and other important industry perspective—and they put on shows to give students visibility.
Gloria Gifford Conservatory (GGC) has put together just such a show: Williams-Williams & Miller: An Evening of One-Act Plays. Gifford directs eight students in two 1946-era one-acts by her favorite playwright, mid-20th-century master Tennessee Williams, and one 1970 piece by Jason Miller, best known for That Championship Season.
The Williams pieces are almost shockingly dated, presenting uncomfortable scenarios that give actors an opportunity to stretch. In “Twenty-Seven Wagons Full of Cotton,” husband Jake (Haile D’Alan) has burned down a nearby plantation’s cotton gin to boost his own business. He and the plantation’s supervisor, Silva (Chad Doreck), do battle by proxy, using Jake’s wife Flora (Danielle Abraham Sanchez) as the trophy. Flora giggles endlessly through abuse by both men, ultimately indulging herself.
As with another GGC production from a few years ago, food plays a role. In Williams’ “Moony’s Kid Don’t Cry,” financially struggling new parents Moony (Billy Budnich) and Jane (Joey Marie Urbina) fight almost to the point of divorce while Jane, standing at a working stove, lights a gas burner and heats milk in a pan.
Another couple grappling with a bad marriage is found in Miller’s “Lou Gehrig Did Not Die of Cancer.” Husband and ironically named baseball coach Victor (Danny Siegel) is loathed and left by wife Barbara (Keturah Hamilton). Helen (Denisha Kain) shows up at just the right time.
There are a lot of moving parts. All of the pieces have complex—and very different—sets. Watching students dismantle and set up is a fun part of the process. The students go all in, with high-energy, well-practiced performances requiring them not only to cook, but to eat, chop watermelon, even bathe.
Note that the show’s cast alternates, so that more students can display their talents. Other cast members are: Amber Dancy, Justine Estrada, Evelyn Gonzalez, Chris Jones, Jade Ramirez, Keith Walker, Teagan Wilson and Dazelle Yvette (who also did the show’s makeup).
Williams-Williams & Miller: An Evening of One-Act Plays plays Saturdays at 8:00pm and Sundays at 7:30pm through June 12 at the Gloria Gifford Conservatory, 6502 Santa Monica Blvd. at Wilcox. Tickets are $25 and are available here.
About Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen has lived in the Brookside neighborhood since 1993. She works as a freelance writer, editor and consultant. She's also a playwright affiliated with Neo Ensemble Theatre in Hollywood.
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